A Town of Huntington official resigned over an alleged “vulgar” email sent to other staff members about another employee. This comes after board members questioned his two-week suspension last week.
The office of Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) confirmed that Public Safety Director Peter Sammis resigned from his position Feb. 10 in the middle of a two-week unpaid suspension.
In a Feb. 4 statement, Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said she was contacted by members of the press who asked her to comment on “inappropriate and unacceptable behavior of a town department head.”
She said she was informed by a journalist that a department head sent an email to two male employees Nov. 26, 2019. The email, from his town account, contained “vulgar and sexual reference about a female town employee.”
“The town supervisor and town attorney subsequently confirmed the information was accurate but could do little to assuage my outrage over having learned about it in this manner and failed to provide satisfactory answers as to the many questions I have over its handling and eventual questionable disciplinary action,” she said.
In a statement last week, Lupinacci said the town could not comment on personnel matters.
“The town’s policy regarding not commenting on personnel matters is one that is very important and in place to respect the interests of all parties involved in any particular situation,” he said. “As a result, we intend to continue to honor that policy and not discuss the specifics of the matter referred to in recent media reports. That being said, we believe it is important to note that the matter at issue came to the town’s attention through its normal oversight procedures and not through a complaint from any employee. The matter was addressed with the employee involved in a manner consistent with town practice.”
In her statement last week, Cergol said she expected answers to various questions including why, as a Town Board member, she wasn’t notified of the incident and why wasn’t the department head suspended immediately after the discovery of the November email. She also questioned whether the employee’s email account was reviewed to see if there were any other emails that violated the town’s email policy.
“The manner in which this incident was handled, its lack of transparency and apparent departure from Town of Huntington protocol demand further investigation and satisfactory answers to the Town Board,” Cergol said at the end of the statement.
After Sammis’ resignation, Lupinacci said in a statement that the town takes such incidents “very seriously” and provides “mandatory training for all employees to address and help prevent these types of situations.”
“The employee was dealt with harshly, immediately, and in a manner consistent with the advice of our director of personnel and outside labor counsel, who also advised that the Town Board’s involvement in disciplinary action was not warranted,” he said. “I would remind my colleagues that outing the alleged subject of the email, and not respecting her privacy, was completely inappropriate and initiated the victimization of this employee, who was not aware of this incident before town officials ran to the press with it, which is exactly the reason why it is our policy not to comment on personnel matters.”
On Feb. 12, state Sen. Jim Gaughran’s (D-Northport) office announced in an email he would introduce state legislation “that will strengthen reporting requirements for sexual harassment complaints and violations of the Human Rights Law.”