PBA union leader asks state board to reinstate him in East End Drug Task Force

The president of the Southampton Village Police Association is seeking reinstatement in a regional drug task force after he claimed that village officials removed him in retaliation for the union’s campaign against the mayor.

That. Michael Horstman, who joined the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s East End Drug Task Force on September 20, 2017, has filed a charge of misconduct with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. Horstman was elected chairman of the Police Benevolent Association on January 1, 2018, according to documents submitted to the Audit Board, which Newsday has obtained through a request for freedom of information.

Mayor Jesse Warren told Newsday to withdrawing from the task force was advised by consultants. The study by Edmund Hartnett Risk Management was released in May and recommended the village consider leaving the task force because participation cost more than $ 80,000 in overtime in 2019 with few benefits.

“There were apparently no violent crimes solved, no wanted suspects found, no local gangs dismantled, no tangible impact on local drug conditions and no apparent impact on the local opioid crisis,” the study said.

The police union clashed with Warren shortly after he was elected in June 2019 due to a suspected lack of support for the police, and the PBA adopted a vote in August 2020 calling for the mayor’s dismissal as police commissioner for the department. The documents note that the PBA in 2021 actively campaigned against Warren in his successful bid for re-election in June.

“PBA’s support for Warren’s opponent and campaign fostered strife and enmity between PBA and Warren, which was widely reported by local media,” reads a PBA memorandum in support of the Public Employment Relations Board accusation.

Horstman was told on Oct. 1 that he was reassigned from the task force and into the detective department at the request of Warren and administrator Gina Arresta, according to an email he received from acting police chief Suzanne Hurteau. Horstman said Arresta told him the PBA president should not be in the task force and that the mayor had said the PBA’s treatment of him had “ruined his life.”

Horstman’s indictment says the reassignment will cause a “cooling effect” on his ability to speak out on union issues. It also says it will disrupt his ability to work for the private security company he owns.

Horstman, whose salary in 2020 was $ 185,772 according to the village, is also asking for a statement that the village, among other things, violated the law on the fair employment of public servants.

Neither Horstman nor his lawyer, Christopher Rothemich, returned calls to seek comment.

Arresta said in a statement that the charge is intended to prevent the village council from implementing a departmental reform. She said her comments were taken out of context and that she had questioned whether the PBA president, a public-facing role, should be involved in undercover work.

Warren denied that he punished Horstman and acted instead on the advice of a study commissioned by the village to improve the department’s operations.

“We need to put the security of our villagers first and private security interests second,” Warren said Tuesday. “And we should ensure that public security services are provided in a professional and cost-effective manner.”

The Audit Committee rejected a motion for injunction to reinstate Horstman while the charge is pending. A consultation conference is scheduled for November 29, the audit committee said.

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