Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, seen here last year, told...

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, seen here last year, told Newsday he will make his first public comments about the suspension during a special town board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Southold Town Board has reached a settlement agreement with its embattled police chief, who will be reinstated Monday following a suspension that resulted from a two-year investigation into the department’s handling of complaints over an officer’s retirement party during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police Chief Martin Flatley told Newsday he will make his first public comments about the suspension during a special town board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.

“I’m looking forward at this point, not backward,” said Flatley, whose suspension has been in effect more than 70 days.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell also confirmed the town reached a settlement agreement with the chief prior to a pending disciplinary hearing. He told Newsday he would release the findings of the investigation following town board action Monday.

“Everything will become self-explanatory then,” Russell said. “The information will speak for itself.”

The supervisor said possible disciplinary charges are still pending against four other town employees.

The Southold Town Board voted 6-0 Aug. 9 to appoint a hearing officer in the matter and to initiate the suspension. The resolutions did not identify by name the employees with scheduled hearings or state what disciplinary charges they would face.

Police officers John Hinton and Daniel Mackey and Sgt. Steven Witzke were later identified as three of the other four town employees facing discipline, through a document detailing who pays police union dues, which contained the employee numbers that corresponded with those in the resolutions. The other employee, not a member of the police union, was never publicly identified.

Residents complained on May 29, 2020, that Southold police ignored calls that a large number of people were partying at a Cutchogue tree farm owned by former Police Sgt. Steven Zuhoski and were not following social-distancing protocols, as well as reportedly setting off fireworks.

Zuhoski, who worked in the department for nearly 24 years, had retired earlier that day. State protocols at the time banned large gatherings and required social distancing.

No mention of the incident appeared in the weekly Southold Town police blotter, and residents complained that law enforcement was “dismissive” of their complaints and had flouted the law.

At the time, Flatley said he had no “direct knowledge” of the party.

In July 2020, the town retained Justin Block, of Central Islip-based Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP, as special counsel to the town to investigate the police department’s response to the party. The Suffolk District Attorney’s Office also launched an investigation.

Last month the town released a statement saying the investigation’s conclusions were “very troubling.”

Flatley joined the town’s police department full-time in 1980 and rose through the ranks as a detective, lieutenant and captain before being appointed to the department’s top post in 2011. Capt. James Ginas has served as acting chief during the suspension.

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