Alleged Southampton PD abuse breeds lawsuits, fear
The Town of Southampton is facing millions of dollars in lawsuits surrounding claims of abuse by the town's police department.
Members of the Southampton Police Department have been accused of drug use, shakedowns and harassment. Seven convictions have been vacated following a probe by the Suffolk DA into more than 100 cases handled by the department's now disbanded street crimes unit. Two members of the department, Lt. James Kiernan and officer Eric Sickles, have been reinstated following suspensions over Sickles' remaining on the job despite a known addiction to prescription pills.
Frank Vlahadamis, the owner of the Hampton Bays Diner, is among the plaintiffs involved in lawsuits against the town. Vlahadamis claims members of the department, including Kiernan, all but tried to run him out of town after he started hosting a "Hispanic night." A lawsuit against Kiernan resulted in a hung jury and was dismissed. His lawsuit against the town is still pending, but he says he now wants to sell the diner after owning it for 30 years.
"He's back on the force like nothing happened," says Vlahadamis. "I'm afraid this guy is going to come after me again."
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, a registered Independent, sought an outside company to review the department's procedures and policies. She could not get the necessary support of the full town board, however.
Among the Town of Southampton's five-member board are two Republicans and one Conservative. Campaign records obtained by Newsday show Kiernan is a large donor and a Republican Party committee member.
Through their attorneys, both Kiernan and Sickles declined requests for on-camera interviews.