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Story - News

Jul 22, 2014 4:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Will Post Armed Security Guard At Public Meetings

Jul 22, 2014 5:00 PM

Starting Tuesday evening, all Southampton Town Board meetings will be guarded by an armed security officer.

The Town Board has approved the hiring of a private security firm to provide a single guard to stand at the door of the People’s Room on the second floor of Town Hall for the board’s two monthly business meetings. Guards will not be posted for the weekly Thursday morning work sessions. Summit Security Services, Inc. will provide the security guard for the Town Board meetings at $37.33 per hour.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the officer will not be used to enforce order at the meetings, unless an extreme situation were to arise.

“If there’s a concern that we’re being threatened, then, of course,” she said, “or if the room is completely out of order we’d have the ability to call on him, or her.”

The guard will ask attendees of meetings to sign in before entering the board room.

Twice in the last year armed police officers were asked by members of the Town Board to stand guard in the meeting room during raucous meetings.

The first time, last summer, a uniformed Town Police officer stood in the back of the room during a public hearing on the town’s addition of sustainability amendments to the Comprehensive Plan.

The Town Board drew some criticism last month when two Southampton Town Police officers, in plain clothes, were posted in the meeting room during the last of a series of public hearings on a proposed affordable housing apartment complex in Tuckahoe. Angry area residents had leveled harsh criticism at board members and challenged the board’s rules on speaking time. At one point, Ms. Throne-Holst asked one of the officers to remove a particularly vociferous opponent, Frances Genovese, from the board room. Ms. Genovese was allowed to stay when she agreed to temper her comments from the audience.

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This can't be real.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jul 22, 14 4:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
What is the big deal?!? Obviously these meetings can get heated at times. As a precautionary measure I don't see any problems with this. I'm sure the guards will sit in the crowd and go unnoticed. If things get physical, it will be their duty to intervene, not the board members or a constituent with their own agenda. That's when things can get out of hand. Funny, the people posting in disagreement will be the first to light up the comment board in regards to an article about a town meeting in ...more
By Elliver (20), southampton on Jul 24, 14 12:47 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jul 29, 14 7:58 AM
He rode a blazing saddle, he wore a shiny star. There's a new sheriff in town.
By Local dad (51), West of Nothwest Bub on Jul 22, 14 5:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
An absolute ridiculous waste of taxpayer money. The Board has never been in any real danger and maybe Anna needs to relax with the drama and respect the taxpayers right to be vocal at meetings they pay for without fear of oppression from rent-a-cops. (That their tax dollars ironically now pay the salary of). This certainly destroys the rural and welcoming aspect of the east end municipal hearing room and requiring attendees to sign in is just ugly. Thanks for nothing ATH!
By Eamonn (17), East Hampton on Jul 22, 14 7:50 PM
I'd rather they be preventive in their measures then reactive in their measures. It's not unheard of for violence to break out at a local town hearing in America.

Furthermore, by not using uniformed police, it removes any political agendas from "enforcement"
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 23, 14 9:17 AM
this is has to be a joke.
By user.name (46), the jungle on Jul 22, 14 8:35 PM
This is disgusting. Anna has been using guards to intimidate people from speaking their minds at certain meetings. Now she wants to have the guards at all meetings. This woman needs to go. She no longer has my vote.
By moonpie (43), Southampton on Jul 22, 14 8:39 PM
3 members liked this comment
I guess Anna has never watched the proceedings of the British Parliament at work. Their raucous meetings make Southampton's Town Board sessions look like a walk in the park.We, as citizens, have the right to free speech, free expression even if the ideas and opinions are contrary to the policy or laws being pursued.

Shame on her! Southampton should not be made into a police state. What an infantile, petty tactic on the part of the Town Board.
By kvetch (14), Southold on Jul 22, 14 9:06 PM
I went to my first town board meeting and waited in the hall. The corridor was suppose to have speakers for those waiting so they could hear the proceedings. They did not work. Suddenly Ms. Thorne Hulse appeared.
She admonished the group that she was conducting town business and they were too loud. She talked as if we were bad12 year olds. After her scolding
she left. I heard about her ,but now saw her in action.
Now she wants guards to keep those pesty little people who don't agree ...more
By Marypat (2), Southampton on Jul 22, 14 9:16 PM
The only person in the building to carry a loaded weapon should be a police officer! A security guard with a gun has no power to make an arrest or to make someone leave the building, where a sworn police officer can by the statue of the NYS law. They could hire a part time police officer that already works and is familiar with the town police departments procedures for that kind of money. Just another waste, and if this security guard does do something, who is going to get sued??? Bad decision!
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on Jul 22, 14 9:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps the Supervisor will have the "security guard"dress in the uniform of the Swiss Guard or Papal Police. Wasn't Richard Nixon who suggested doing just that with White House security? With no credible threat to the security of either the public at large or the elected officials what legitimate governmental purpose does this "guard" and sign in sheet have?

Would love to hear an explanation from the Town Attorney and those on the Town Board who voted in favor of this attempt to intimidate ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 22, 14 10:48 PM
There is nothing wrong with Anna playing it safe. She obviously felt the need for security presence and she has every right, by not taking a chance.
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 23, 14 12:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
If ATH "obviously felt the need for security presence," then she knows she's (and some or all of the others) are doing something wrongs (i.e., not in the best interests of the residents and taxpayers of the Town).

Has she received a threat against her safety? Then that's a police matter!

She wants a security guard -- armed or otherwise -- then she should pick up the tab on her own.

This woman has lost touch with her constituency, just as that goof Chris Nuzzi did when ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 23, 14 9:34 AM
3 members liked this comment
I agree with some on this topic. A private armed security guard is not right. If someone says something that doesn't agree with Anna does the security guard go to them and tell them to have a seat like during the Sandy Hollow argument? This is a democracy. If anything, a Southampton Town Police Officer who knows the law and is responsible for his/her actions could/should be present. I voted for Anna twice. I'm having second thoughts with all that she does and has done. It's more like a Monarchy.
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on Jul 23, 14 6:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just another attempt to take power from the citizens, we have the right to speak our minds at a PUBLIC MEETING, Queen Anna has overstepped Her authority IMHO. As stated above, a SECURITY GUARD has no police power, and no authority to demand anything from anyone. These fools work for us! We pay their salaries, the Town Hall belongs to us, the powers that be seem to have forgotten this simple fact. They will be reminded at the voting booth.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 23, 14 7:07 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Corwin1879 (40), Southampton on Jul 23, 14 8:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
Armed... Boy does that open a can of worms! Now we are talking "Deadly Force". How about a big burly guy 6' 5" and 283lbs, with a snarl on his mug? That would keep order at a town meeting of locals..........

Think it over, he could shoot but not arrest.... Holy Cow..
By Tommy Turbo (60), Deep River, CT on Jul 23, 14 11:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
Aye NT. And judging by what I see happening with ATH's alliance with Scalera, who's decision was this? Just by watching the meetings, looks like the town is being run by those two. Buyers remorse Dems?
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Jul 23, 14 11:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
don't always agree with it but Scalera has her own mind and haven';t seen her make a decision yet that isn't informed. We should be so lucky.
And to those "outraged" at the thought of having security at public meetings - do you not read newspapers or watch the news? This seems like much-to-do about nothing.
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Jul 23, 14 1:24 PM
This Town is a joke. I am sure at $37.33 an hour (imagine what the person there actually gets) these highly trained security personnel will keep Town Board safe. I think they should put up bullet proof glass in front of the Board. Makes more sense. Tee Hee
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jul 23, 14 12:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are they serious??? why are people acting like jackasses that the town meetings now need a security guard? I cannot stand this town and some of these ridiculous people.
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Jul 23, 14 12:56 PM
Why don't we have the board meetings at Southampton Justice Court. They already have metal detectors and armed security. They can sit on the pulpit and admonish all people in the room.
By harbor hound (31), southampton on Jul 23, 14 1:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
What is the name of the security company? I'm sure she knows a few...wink wink
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jul 23, 14 1:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Southampton Town Board are total disgrace and Anna is beyond belief. How sad that a small village has to have such dictatorial people who don't care about anything but themselves. I certainly hope they are all voted out, come next election. Hard to believe they can get away with what they have done, and are doing !!!!,
By Raccoon mom (6), Shelter island on Jul 23, 14 5:22 PM
It is a TOWN, not a VILLAGE.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 14 9:42 PM
Can they be reported? Queen Anna and her thugs need to go. Any way to get her out? The residents of Southampton need better. Look what the town has allowed to happen. This is no longer the town I remember. Sign in to attend an open meeting? WTF. Shame on them.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Jul 23, 14 11:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Think Oheka . . .paranoia strikes deep
By nazznazz (276), east hampton on Jul 23, 14 11:34 PM
This is RIDICULOUS!
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Jul 24, 14 8:22 AM
The County Legislature has had armed Sheriff Deputies at their meetings for years and years and years. And, yes, you need to fill out a card to speak.
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 9:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 14 9:45 PM
Being accountable is part of the job. If there is a true security concern use a video conference in a secured room. The public can watch on a video screen and interact with a microphone. If there is no real concern stand and listen to the voters. Jack booted thugs shouldn't be needed to intimidate speakers.
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Jul 24, 14 10:04 AM
How soon before they start asking for your papers? Shame that the "People's Room" an Southampton will be more secure than our borders. Sounds more like it is just Anna's room and she is just letting the peons in.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Jul 24, 14 10:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ross, you should know there is a big difference between a Sheriff and an armed "private" security guard. It is extremely irresponsible to hire private armed security to guard the taxpayer's room. Will they be authorized to use deadly force? I doubt it, so what is the purpose of being armed? Can you imagine the liability to the Town (taxpayers) when one of these guys draws or discharges his weapon? Nothing good can come from this and the insult to the taxpayers can't be justified. Your comment seems ...more
By Eamonn (17), East Hampton on Jul 24, 14 11:09 AM
3 members liked this comment
... the reason the citizenry is getting restless is because the board sits in front of them week after week, meeting after meeting and they say nothing. Anna's proclamation that she is not going to get into a "back and forth" with someone at the podium means she is not going to answer questions. The people's business should be conducted in the "People's Room", not illegally, in executive session.

Time after time people bring good ideas and valid questions to the podium and all Anna has ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 24, 14 11:40 AM
Is it so unrealistic to believe that SOME members of the public who attend these meetings act in a way that is disruptive/immature/disorderly? I have been to plenty of "heated" public hearings, and there are certainly plenty of members of the public who feel it's their right to yell, shout, interrupt, slander, or otherwise distract from the business at hand. It amazes me that "the people" think they will get what they want by acting like children - no actually that's not true. The act far worse ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 1:21 PM
Southampton Town seasonal police officers are paid $19-$20/hr., why are they not be utilized as a saving to the alternative, that is, if we need security for town board meetings only?
By theprogram (37), east quogue on Jul 24, 14 1:05 PM
The idea of having it be a third party removes the potential for bias and politically motivated actions where-in the police are doing whatever the supervisor acts. With a security guard, this doesn't exist. Care to remember HHS's constant complaints about the "big blue wall"?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 1:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
A seasonal officer would have access to a STPD radio which would allow backup to arrive sooner if there was an emergency, whereas the security guard only has his gun, a cell phone and no powers of arrest.
By theprogram (37), east quogue on Jul 24, 14 4:20 PM
I'm honestly surprised at all of the "outrage" behind this and am really surprised that the general public commenting would actually PREFER uniformed (and of course, armed) police officers standing at the doorway instead of a security guard. If anything screams intimidation it's having police officers present, whose paychecks are (for all intents and purposes) are signed by the supervisor.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 4:28 PM
But town hall is in the village, not the town. So the village PD would be the responding agency.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 14 9:48 PM
A security guard has no authority at a public meeting in OUR TOWN HALL!! Imagine the lawsuit if he lays a hand on anyone trying to keep "order"!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 24, 14 4:28 PM
This is not about "order" or "threats" or "security". This is about ATH's dysfunctional and offensive relationship with the "people" in the People's Room and her equally dysfunctional ego. . Somehow she thinks it is her Throne Room. People wondering about the cost of this latest misuse of power should know that the security firm asked the Town if they could bill for 5 hrs even if the meeting is 3 hrs to "make it worth their while". The town agreed to that. Scalera is just an echo of ATH, like ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jul 25, 14 7:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow -talk about dysfunctional?! Is there really a universe where your response to this measure makes any sense?! Scalera is not an echo, nor hardly a maiden, but a rational voice that in this instance agrees because it makes sense. Fleming- who knows- but whether you want to acknowledge it or not we live in a day and age where this is the very least in appropriate security that should be afforded the public and board. You are offended perhaps because it affected you directly? What is truly sad ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Jul 25, 14 9:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
If a police function in required it ought to be police officers doing the function, not a hired Barney Fife with a bullet in his shirt pocket.

I am surprised it is not a violation of the Towns labor contract with the police unions.

Perhaps it is.

Stay tuned.

Once a basic right is removed from the people, government rarely if ever willingly returns that right to the people. The issues here are far deeper than a lone hired hand. Some understand it, others don't. ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 25, 14 11:17 PM
What right is being removed from the people?

"Once a basic right is removed from the people, government rarely if ever willingly returns that right to the people."
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 26, 14 10:24 AM
to NTiger:

Sweet Jesus! Right now, the only overhead involved in town meetings is the cost of utilities. Posting an STPD cop would increase that cost by about 1000% and would provide the noble Anna with one of her benevolent patrons to enforce her will. Bad, bad idea.

(However, you are undoubtedly right, hiring a private security guard for government meetings is sure to be a violation of the STPD employment contract. We should hear from PBA Vice-President-For-Life Kevin Gwinn ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 26, 14 12:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
A simple response.

For some the posting of a guard has a chilling effect upon their basic and essential rights to assembly and to petition government.

The use of the federal level of the mystical "need of national security" and at the local level of "security" to chip away at fundamental rights is no secret, Nature.

Is there truly some unspoken danger lurking waiting for the moment to spring unimpeded into the meeting room or is the concern that a citizenry riled a perceived ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 26, 14 4:39 PM
HHS,

As a follower of these blog comments I am familiar with your distaste for the SHPD. Notwithstanding your discomfort, and, despite the additional cost, if necessary, a plain clothes member of the SHPD having a presence at the meetings would serve the purpose without the potential chilling effect. Much like the nondescript deployment of air marshals on our passenger air craft.

Such use of trained and publicly employed personnel need not even have been revealed, unless and ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 26, 14 4:45 PM
NTiger - I agree that any requirement to show your ID (or similar) in order to speak is BS and has no backing by the constitution - but the presence of a guard (armed or otherwise) does not chip away at a person's rights. If you are fearful that the guard will shoot you because of what you say - then you probably should re-word what you want to say. (Keep in mind, however, that you are required to state your name [and spelling] at a public hearing when you wish to speak for the official record. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 14 3:58 PM
Nature,

Apart from an incident many years ago, which I vaguely remember a Town Employee hitting someone at a Board meeting, I do not recall another incident where "heated debate" led to physical violence

As for the "chilling effect" caused by an armed guard, if you do not see it, you do not see it. But I fear many others do and will refrain from participating in an open debate on issues confronting the town.

Try to remember there are any number of Town residents who come ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 30, 14 5:32 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Friend of the Bay, Southampton on Jul 27, 14 6:03 PM
You guys are making a big mistake. ATH is honest, fair, smart and has integrity. I have seen her act on quality of life matters that two supervisors before her ignored. From what I have seen of Scalera in a short time, she thinks 1st of the full time members of the community while listening to the needs of Summer owners. You / we have a great team and thats a fact jack :)
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 28, 14 12:11 AM
Have you seen the payback for ATH becoming Supervisor? Look at all the development that's been allowed under this administration. I'm sure with all this building we'll see a decrease in our property taxes right?
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Jul 29, 14 9:35 PM
Give us some examples of any building or development that would not have occurred if ATH were not Supervisor.
Simple fact is, the citiots on Wall St are making so much $, they NEED to spend it on "cottages" in the Hamptons. It has nothing to do with ATH.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 14 9:52 PM
I'll give you the "smart" (calculating). You totally wiffed on the other three!

Given the current state of shootings in schools and public spaces I could live without a security guard upstairs at Town Hall and move him/her downstairs alongside a metal detector at the entrance of the building. IMO the
"peoples room" should stay the way it is. The supervisor's concern seems a little misguided.
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Jul 28, 14 3:16 PM
If the concern was truly about security your suggestion is spot on. However it is apparently only the "security" within the Board room is the concern and then only during Board meetings.

So it is not a general security threat, it is isolated to a specific room at specific time periods.

Gee, sounds like a "chilling effect" on free speech to me. But, no worry, its only our constitutional rights the current board wishes to infringe upon.

Justsay'n you make a valid point. ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 29, 14 4:54 PM
Unions would fight security entrance.... no unionized workers are needed for TB hearings
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 14 5:18 PM
to NTiger:

I have not seen evidence that indicates that the presence of a security officer at town meetings is needed. Beyond that, posting one who is a patronage beneficiary of the supervisor (i.e. an STPD officer, in-or-out of uniform) is ludicrous. Do we really want to provide the Queen of Hearts with such a facile tool to silence her critics?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 29, 14 6:40 PM
If you need an armed guard it follows that a metal detector should be in place .Will the ZBA and Planning Boar members be guarded in like manner,what a waste of tax payers money...............Anna should be impeached.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jul 30, 14 5:04 PM
The lead editorial in this week's Press concludes with this summary:

"Any tension that existed at meetings before is ramped up now, as a Town Board that has been criticized for being unreceptive to public input now has an armed guard on its side. It’s a signal as clear as crystal: It’s us and them. The wide chasm between the two existed before, but now an armed guard patrols the line between. Ms. Scalera is right—it is, truly, a sign of the times, at least in Southampton ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 30, 14 5:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Former Trustee Havemeyer has an interesting letter in the Press also on p. A13 at the top left, the "lead" letter if you will. Another town official who had the courage to speak Truth to power.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 30, 14 6:25 PM
2 members liked this comment
I bet a lot of the people commenting haven't been to one of these meetings. Unfortunately there are a few overly passionate people every once in a while who seem threatening when they will not stop their point and try to make their point in a nasty way. Whats the TB going to do throw pencils at them? In this modern age people have to agree to disagree in a civil way but that's just not the case. SO this is a good idea in prevention before some of these overly passionate people do something really ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Aug 1, 14 6:24 AM
And this warrants deadly force how?
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Aug 1, 14 3:57 PM