Former East Hampton Village Police Chief Gerard Larsen is suing the village mayor and a trustee, alleging they violated the municipality’s ethics code while restricting Larsen from outside security jobs in a field they all worked in.
Larsen and his wife, Lisa, filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday against Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr., trustee Richard Lawler and the village under Protec Services Inc., the property management and security firm they own.
A complaint alleges that Rickenbach and Lawler used their positions on the village board to get a competitive advantage in the lucrative security and property management business by prohibiting Protec from conducting business within the village.
The lawsuit will be heard in Supreme Court in Central Islip, but no hearing date has been set. According to the suit, Rickenbach worked for Southampton Town-based SCAN Security while operating his own company. But payroll manager David O’Brien said there is no record of Rickenbach being employed by SCAN.
The lawsuit does not name which companies Lawler and Rickenbach allegedly operate, and there are no corporate filings under either of their names.
Rickenbach and Lawler directed a request for comment to Village Administrator Rebecca Hansen, who said, “The Village is not aware at this time of any lawsuit and certainly would not comment on any current or pending litigation.”
Larsen retired from the police department last month after 15 years as its chief.
James Wicks, Larsen’s attorney with the Uniondale-based firm Farrell Fritz PC, said village officials did not apply the ethics code evenly.
“The purpose of ethics codes are to protect the public, not to be selectively applied or used by officials to stifle competition by taking away their competitor’s clients,” Wicks said. “This lawsuit will end that abuse.”
Larsen operated Protec without issue from its founding in 2005 until 2009, when SCAN lost some customers to Protec, the complaint said. That year, Rickenbach and the village board wrote a letter requesting Larsen divest his ownership interest in Protec and issued a memo requiring all department heads and code enforcement officers to seek board approval for any extracurricular work to comply with the ethics code.
The board soon required the company to stop conducting business within the village boundaries, prohibited it from hiring other village employees and restricted it from performing drug and alcohol testing services, the lawsuit said.
The board allowed at least one code enforcement officer to continue to watch some homes in the village, records show.
Protec lost approximately 76 percent of its gross profit over the following year, including a $300,000 contract for 24-hour security services at a village residence, the lawsuit said.
According to the suit, Rickenbach and Lawler continued to operate their companies, and Rickenbach did so without proper licenses.
“The biggest message is that when people are elected and put into positions of power, they should not take advantage of those positions,” Larsen said Thursday.