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Southold to launch independent inquiry into ignored calls over cop's retirement party

Southold officials have directed the town attorney to retain an independent investigator to review allegations from residents that police dismissed phone calls about a heavily attended retirement party last month for a veteran police sergeant.

The decision came after the Southold Town Board held an executive session at a special meeting on Tuesday and were subsequently briefed on a preliminary investigation performed by Police Chief Martin Flatley, according to a statement issued late Wednesday by town officials.

Residents complained to Southold officials that the police department ignored their phone calls on May 29 reporting that people attending a party at a Cutchogue tree farm owned by Steven Zuhoski were not following social distancing protocols and that fireworks were being shot off. Zuhoski had retired that day after nearly 24 years with the department.

“The town board wants the residents of Southold to know that we are taking the allegations very seriously and are determined to get to the bottom of what happened,” Supervisor Scott Russell said Wednesday in a statement. “These allegations are very troubling, the public wants answers — and they deserve answers.”

Flatley told the town board at its June 2 work session that his department would investigate the matter and review its internal recording system to go over all calls and responses related to the incident.

Flatley did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

Russell said it was “of paramount importance” that Southold residents can “maintain trust and confidence in their local police department, and local government.” The best way to do so, Russell said, was to retain an independent investigator.

Russell added that as part of the investigation, certain procedures under civil service law must be observed and he asked for patience during the ongoing probe.

“Once the investigation is complete and all the facts are known, the board will be able to comment further,” the supervisor said. “We have been advised by our legal counsel to refrain from commenting on the events of that night, or on the investigation, in order to ensure the integrity of the process.”

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