March 29, 2006
Town Employee Is Terminated
The Southampton Town Board terminated town employee Mark McBurnie, Jr. last Friday for a bias crime incident that took place last October.
Based on conclusions of hearing officer John Sarcone, the board voted unanimously to terminate McBurnie at its morning work session last Friday. Councilwoman Linda Kabot was absent.
Town highway superintendent William Masterson, who was present at the work session, agreed with the board's decision.
McBurnie, of Speonk, was an assistant labor crew leader for the town's highway department.
On October 6, 2005, Kevin Wilson, an African American employee in the highway department's Westhampton facility was getting a ride back to his North Bellport home with Caucasian co-worker Andre Rastelli. The men were driving on Sunrise Highway when passing motorists pointed to the back of Rastelli's car. When they pulled over, a brown rag doll with a rope tied around its body was discovered hanging off the bumper of the vehicle.
McBurnie, Wilson's superior, admitted to putting the doll there. The two men filed a criminal complaint against McBurnie with the New York State Police.
"Independent of the pending criminal charges that were out there which are really the purview of the district attorney's office, clearly his actions were, in my opinion, a clear violation of our town personnel policies," said Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick Heaney.
McBurnie had recently completed an annual sensitivity diversity training required of all town employees as part of its anti-harassment policy.
This had been the second racially charged incident in four years in the highway department. In a similar incidence in 2001, Joseph Johnson III, an African American employee for the department's Hampton Bays facility discovered a black doll hanging from his car with a noose around its neck. No disciplinary action was taken because the perpetrator was never found. Johnson has stayed with the department. The incident prompted the town to adopt a policy requiring all town employees to take sensitivity training.