Hardy Plumbing
December 14, 2011

Pink Slip For Penny?



penny
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(click for larger version)

penny
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(click for larger version)
They want him gone. And Larry Penny, the East Hampton Town Director of Natural Resources is fighting back with help from the last squeaky wheel town officials tried unsuccessfully to oust, former town safety inspector Tom Horn who is now an attorney specializing in labor matters, Tom Horn.

A slew of charges of insubordination, incompetence and misconduct leveled against Penny conclude with a list of penalties or punishments that may be imposed should he be found guilty. Penny once dubbed East Hampton's "environmental rock star," could be demoted, suspended without pay, fined, reprimanded or dismissed, according to the document signed by Town Attorney John Jilnicki. It states, "Please be advised the proposed penalty is termination."

At a special work session last Wednesday, the town board voted unanimously to suspend Penny without pay pending the outcome of a hearing.

Fourteen separate charges accuse the 26-year employee of a variety of alleged misdeeds. The disciplinary documents note that last September officials discovered he'd been storing animal carcasses in the basement of the town's office suites on Pantigo Place, sans authorization.

He was immediately directed to get rid of the unauthorized carcasses, to prepare a plan for their removal, and did not. "Your actions in failing to obey the directives of the Town Supervisor . . . constitute insubordination," the document reads. Other unauthorized carcass charges relate to their alleged improper storage in chemicals, and failure to obtain and keep current proper permits and maintain proper records regarding the chemicals.

Penny was also called on the carpet for allowing trees on the Barbara Hale Preserve in Springs to be removed by mechanical means in violation of town and county permits, plus allowing the private contractor who removed the trees to keep them. Misconduct charges include the alleged failure to comply with the terms of an aquatic habitat restoration grant, failure to follow through on the investigation of an enforcement proceeding and failure to supervise and monitor employees in his department.

Long time denizens of town hall would likely read the charges against Penny and think, "Yeah. So?" The so called acts of misconduct and insubordination allegedly perpetrated by the veteran department head have been a sort of standard operating procedure for the employee, whose office was known to house dead birds and samples of vegetation in plastic bags for years.

Horn was reluctant to speak at length about the charges, lest he tip his defensive hand. He said simply, "Larry did nothing wrong, nothing that hasn't always been part of his job." He added, "The charges as they are, are practically and legally insufficient and vague."

Horn did opine derisively regarding one of the charges – that Penny conducted the carcass collection without a town board resolution directing him to. Horn asked rhetorically "How does he [Supervisor Bill Wilkinson] know what Larry's job is? Larry developed the job."

The Wilkinson administration isn't the first to target Penny for a pink slip. Then Supervisor Bill McGintee tried several years ago to excise Penny by eliminating his position and placing his department under the Planning Department. The move spurred a groundswell of dissent, and officials backed off.

McGintee didn't back off when it came to plotting to get rid of Horn, who served as the town safety inspector during his reign. He eliminated Horn's position, then eliminated positions Horn could, by union rules, "bump and retreat" to. Horn fought the move in court and won. After a two-year battle, he was restored to his former position by court order. He subsequently retired at a higher pension, thanks to the court decision.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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