Southampton Village officials are weighing their options to fill the police department's top job after just three people passed a recent chief exam, complicating the nearly yearlong candidate search.
Village Mayor Jesse Warren said of the eight candidates who took the test, administered by the Suffolk County Department of Human Resources, Personnel and Civil Service on March 6, three passed, potentially narrowing the village’s pool of candidates. The list could be deemed ineligible or “broken” if at least one of those candidates is not interested or eligible, which could open up other options for the village, he said.
“What might seem at first glance as a very limited list, it largely would be considered a broken list if any of those candidates are not reachable,” Warren told Newsday on Wednesday. “Then we would have more flexibility to appoint somebody provisionally or go back to the prior list.”
Civil Service law allows the village to hire someone from the list or, if it is broken, the village could choose from another list of candidates who passed an exam administered for the Westhampton Beach Village police chief position in March 2021. That list expires Oct. 1.
The village also could appoint someone else provisionally after the Westhampton Beach results expire, or appoint someone who is serving as a chief in a police department elsewhere in the state outside of New York City, Warren said.
The board has not decided how it will act, Warren said.
Lt. Suzanne Hurteau has served as acting chief since former Chief Thomas Cummings, who collected a $248,342 salary in 2020, retired in September. The new chief’s salary will be determined by their abilities and experience, Warren said.
Hurteau, who village administrator Charlene Kagel-Betts confirmed took the March 6 test, is not on the list. Only the names of those who received a passing grade of 75 or higher are included.
The highest scorer on the list is James Kiernan, the captain of the Southampton Town Police Department who has been the subject of accolades as well as controversy during his 25 years with the town.
Kiernan sued the police department in 2014, alleging he was subjected to retaliation for refusing to use his perceived political influence to help his then-boss, Chief William Wilson, and settled the case for $185,000 as well as a promotion to detective lieutenant in 2018.
Kiernan had supervised Eric Sickles, a former officer with the Street Crimes Unit who admitted he was addicted to prescription painkillers. Wilson had brought 32 internal departmental charges against Kiernan for allegedly misleading internal affairs investigators and other offenses. Kiernan pleaded guilty to four "minor charges" because he could not afford to pay for a formal departmental hearing, according to his lawsuit.
Also on the chief list is William J. Hayes, the former chief of the upstate Town of Bedford Police Department who works for a firm that offers police test preparation. He could not be reached for comment.
The third name on the list is Christopher Broich, a former Southampton Village police sergeant who was fired in 2007 for misconduct and now runs a private security firm. When reached on Thursday, Broich said: “A larger group of people take the test and a much smaller group pass the test. I’m happy to be in that small group.”
A village search committee is screening candidates for the job, for which Southampton has received about 10 resumes, Warren said.
Southampton Village paid Cummings $774,000 for unused time when he left. At the time Warren vowed the next chief’s contract would not be so “lopsided against the taxpayer.”