The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association’s super PAC is wading into the Southampton Village election, sending mailers attacking the incumbent mayor and featuring false information about an appointee to a police reform committee.
A mailer paid for by the Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation, the PBA’s PAC, criticizes Mayor Jesse Warren for appointing an artist with a criminal past to a committee tasked with making recommendations for the village police department as part of the state-mandated police reform process.
The mailer says Southampton gallery owner Hulbert Waldroup is a convicted felon, which is not true. Waldroup has been convicted of a misdemeanor, but says he is a convicted double felon on his website, a statement he said he made to boost his "street credit." The mailer also said Warren "appointed him to oversee the police department," although Waldroup was one of more than 20 people on the committee approved by the village board.
"Trafficking in women and promoting prostitution is a crime. Southampton Mayor Jesse Warren thinks it makes you part of our community," the mailer states.
Warren, who is running against his predecessor, Michael Irving, in the June 18 election, said the mailer was the "most egregious attack" in an increasingly contentious campaign.
"It’s completely absurd. There is no truth to that whatsoever," Warren said. "I’m trying to run a good, positive campaign. They are trying to distract from the real issues."
Waldroup was arrested in 2005 and charged with money laundering and promoting prostitution for what he said stemmed from his work as a security guard for an escort service. Waldroup, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of promoting prostitution, said he never trafficked women, that he cooperated with investigators in the case and has not been in trouble with the law since the arrest.
The Southampton Village PBA has butted heads with Warren and last year held a no-confidence vote calling for his ouster as police commissioner, a role he serves in as mayor. The vote cited in part Warren’s support for an organization with an anti-police message, a reference to Black Lives Matter andthe group’s protests. Warren spoke at a vigil last year following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and posted messages in favor of the BLM movement on social media.
"Since the vote of no confidence, Mayor Jesse Warren has launched a politically motivated assault on the Village Police Department, jeopardizing village residents’ safety," Southampton Village PBA president Michael Horstman said in a statement. "Even more disturbing is the fact Jesse Warren appointed a man convicted of sex-related crimes to a Southampton Village committee. Hulbert Waldroup’s public website proudly states he is a ‘convicted double felon.’ "
Waldroup, who is Black, said he joined the village task force after he felt he was racially profiled by Southampton Village police during a 2020 traffic stop. He said during a task force meeting that a police officer asked him where he was going and how he got his business. Waldroup did not make a formal complaint of the incident.
The mailer features an old photo of Waldroup — who once painted a Bronx mural featuring police officers wearing the white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan — digitally placed next to a photo of the mayor holding a cocktail. It also declares the artist is a former pimp.
"I didn’t ask for this," Waldroup said, adding he feared the mailer’s effect on his business. "I don’t want to lose a client. I don’t want to lose my lease."
PBA president Noel DiGerolamo deferred comment to the Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation. Miguel Vias, who is listed as the organization’s treasurer, could not be reached.
The Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation has become involved in village elections before and sent out mailings in the 2017 Amityville Village election in which Dennis Siry beat Nicholas LaLota for the mayor’s seat. The organization collects $1 a day from the county’s cops for political spending.
Irving was mayor when the board adopted the most recent PBA contract in 2018. The agreement expires in 2024. Warren beat Irving 450-405 in the 2019 election.
Irving, who served as mayor from 2017 until 2019 and was a trustee before that, said campaigns used to consist of knocking on a few doors and "spending very little money."
He said the hardened divide in the village is linked to an influx of people flocking to the East End during the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting the balance of locals and summer residents.
"This has become just absolutely ridiculous for a small community," Irving said of the campaign. "It’s changing the flavor of the community. I can’t wait until it’s [the election] over."