SOUTHOLD, NY — Southold Town Police Commissioner Martin Flatley was reinstated this week at a special City Council meeting following a suspension in August related to a police sergeant’s retirement celebration at a time when pandemic records were in place, with some residents turning red saw.
On Monday, Flatley spoke at the brief meeting at City Hall. He said he has agreed to enter into a settlement agreement with the City of Southold regarding a retirement party that took place on May 29, 2020 at the Zuhoski family farm in Cutchogue.
“I apologize to all residents of the city, and particularly to those residents who have called 911 to file grievances regarding these activities. They deserved a professional response from the police department, which they didn’t get. The breakdown in training and communication and failure to follow police and procedures was inexcusable and understandably undermined people’s trust in their police department.
As chief, Flatley said he accepts ultimate responsibility for his actions “or lack thereof” and the actions of the department’s 70-plus members on the matter. “In the future I will make sure that this type of activity will never take place under my leadership. I will work to restore the trust and leadership that all Southold Town residents deserve in their police department.”
The City Council then voted unanimously to reinstate Flatley.
Southold Councilwoman Sarah Nappa thanked Southold Town Police Commissioner James Ginas for taking on Flatley’s duties over the past few months. “He’s really improved and taken on a lot of responsibility,” she said. “He was put in a position he was unfamiliar with and dove headfirst to do all the research.”
Ginas said that despite the circumstances, it was an honor to serve.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell thanked Ginas and all the officers for all their hard work and dedication.
Southold Councilwoman Jill Doherty added: “This department has always worked well together and really pulled together when something happened.”
When asked for comment after the meeting, Russell told Patch: “Any disciplinary action against Chief Flatley has ended. The matter has been settled. He has taken responsibility and the book is closed. I’ve worked with him for over a decade. he was chief all along – and a damn good one. Time to move forward and get back to town business.”
Flatley was suspended without pay in August pending a hearing following a controversial retirement party during the pandemic when COVID-19 protocols were in place.
Following a City Council discussion in July over an independent private investigator’s report on a Southold police sergeant’s retirement celebration in 2020 – at which a crowd gathered, many of whom were not wearing masks despite social distancing protocols, sparking a public outcry.
The independent review included examining the events surrounding a party thrown on May 29, 2020 for Southold Police Sgt. Steven Zuhoski, who retired from the Southold Police Department that day, Russell said at the time.
In the days following the party, the city received numerous complaints that the police department had not responded to calls from the public complaining that social distancing protocols were not being followed and firecrackers being set off, Russell said.
“It is of paramount importance that the people of the town of Southold are able to maintain trust in their local police department and local government,” Russell said after the meeting at the time. “As a board, we have decided that the best way to maintain that trust is to engage an independent investigator.”
Nappa raised the issue at a Southold City Council working session at the time, noting former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s social distancing protocols that had curbed social gatherings of more than 10 people.
“Members of our community have missed birthday parties, graduations, weddings, births and funerals, with the exception of a select group who are above the law because they are the law – untouchable, privileged. Nobody is above the law,” she said.
She called for an investigation into the incident and asked for coronavirus tests for city workers present.
Flatley said in July he was not privy to the executive session where the matter was discussed and therefore could not comment. Zuhoski was not immediately available for comment.