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Southold Police launch internal probe of calls about retired cop's party

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley had said

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley had said the department's police blotter did not show any calls on the night of the May 29 party but that he has "since found out that a couple of people said they have called."  Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said Tuesday that his department is investigating allegations from residents that police dismissed phone calls about a heavily attended retirement party last week for a police sergeant.

Flatley read a statement and answered questions at Tuesday’s Southold Town Board work session regarding a May 29 party at a Cutchogue tree farm owned by the officer, Steven Zuhoski. 

“If members of our department were present in violation of this order, I am disappointed with their lapse of judgment,” Flatley said. “This will be addressed with all members of the department.”

Flatley told the board that though the police blotter did not show any calls on the night of the party, he had “since found out that a couple of people said they have called” and the reports were not acted on. The department still must go through its internal recording system to review all calls and responses related to the gathering. Flatley said the matter would be addressed by the department and they would seek to complete their internal investigation this week.

Neighbors who spoke to Newsday said they saw dozens of people at the gathering and called police.

Photos posted on social media show dozens of guests who were not practicing social distancing and not wearing masks. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo relaxed restrictions last month, allowing gatherings to occur so long as no more than 10 people attend and they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Zuhoski, a member of the force for nearly 24 years, downplayed the incident in a voicemail message Monday to Newsday, calling the gathering “a private family party on private property closed to the public.”

At the start of the work session, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell gave a brief statement saying that if the allegations are true, he found it “very disturbing” but that the board would not comment further until all the facts are available.

“We will find out exactly what happened, and take whatever action is necessary to make sure our community can maintain their faith in the Southold Police Department,” Russell said.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty also said she wanted to wait until the department's internal investigation is completed and Flatley reports back to them regarding the findings so they can act accordingly.

However, Councilwoman Sarah Nappa said she was “appalled” by the situation and was disappointed that her fellow board members were “not demanding answers today” on whether any officers were sent to break up the party and how many complaints came in, among other questions.

“Members of our community have missed birthday parties, graduations, weddings, births, funerals, except for a select few who felt that they are above the law because they are the law,” Nappa said. “Untouchable, privileged. No one is above the law.”

Nappa called for the board to pass a resolution requiring every town employee who attended the party to be tested for COVID-19 before any interaction with the public.

With Vera Chinese

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