Source: The Independent

December 12, 2012

A Little More Discretion, Please

In East Hampton this week, a town worker who faced termination suddenly was vindicated after her attorney requested a public hearing wherein the town would air the alleged grievances, and the employee would respond.

Instead, an hour before the hearing the town initiated settlement talks, and the matter was resolved. Instead of getting fired, the worker was transferred to another department.

The whole matter begs the question: if the town thought her alleged misconduct egregious enough to warrant getting fired, why didn’t it stick to its guns? Conversely, if the charges were trumped up, why did the employee have to suffer the ignominy of having the whole sordid affair play out in the media?

In Southampton Town a similar situation occurred with a police lieutenant. He was suspended with much fanfare and publicity at the recommendation of the police chief. All kinds of allegations were floated about. Six months later, however, the lieutenant was reinstated and the police chief abruptly resigned.

We are not casting aspersions on anybody involved or passing judgment of any kind. What we are suggesting is the municipalities might use a little caution before dragging someone through the mud.

Yes, there are rogue employees who should be disciplined, and perhaps fired. But there are also those who draw the ire of superiors for noble reasons, like refusing to take shortcuts or leave a job that needs doing undone.

One local attorney suggests the municipalities make these allegations public to intimidate municipal workers. The hope is the employees will be less likely to hire counsel and more likely to submit to the punishment.

We’re in the newspaper business, not the mud-slinging business. These matters should be handled more discreetly until firm evidence of culpability is gleaned.