Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2018

Town Paid Aggrieved Cop $300,000

No wonder Southampton Town tried to keep the terms of a settlement forged with Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa confidential – Costa walked away from the proceeding with a check for $300,000 of the taxpayers' money.

Yielding to a Freedom of Information Law request from The Independent, the town finally provided a copy of a court document dating back to last September.

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Costa filed suit in 2014, contending she was repeatedly passed over for promotions and special assignments since she was hired in 1999 in favor of male colleagues, and that there were several instances of sexual harassment.

Kelly Magnuson, an attorney with Burke, Scolamiero, & Hurd, LLP, a law firm in Albany, represented Costa in the matter; Cynthia Augello of the Garden City-based Cullen and Dykman LLP represented the town. None of those concerned, including Southampton Town Attorney James Burke, would reveal the terms of the settlement. Two of the attorneys were quoted as saying the matter was a "confidential settlement."

The case was dismissed with prejudice on September 14, meaning that it is permanently closed. On November 21, this newspaper requested documents under Freedom of Information Law, contacting Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. We wrote, "As you well know, there is no such thing as a 'confidential' agreement involving a court settlement if the money is to be paid with public funds, as it will be in this case." Schneiderman referred the request to Burke.

Yesterday the settlement was emailed to The Independent without additional comment. Though neither side admitted wrongdoing, Southampton Town agreed to settle all claims against itself and related parties including the Southampton Town Police Department and former police chief Robert Pearce.

The town agreed to issue Costa a check for $300,000 that included her legal fees. In addition, the town agreed to pay Costa for 22 additional sick days in addition to any she has already stockpiled. The settlement ends the action by Costa.

All parties concerned entered into the confidential agreement to settle the action before the United States District Court Eastern District despite the fact that it clearly violated the New York State Sunshine Law, a law requiring certain proceedings of government agencies to be open or available to the public.

It was not signed by a court official.

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