OFFICER'S TICKET TO RIDE

Southampton cop says he was disciplined for telling state that village mishandles its traffic summonses
BY JOSEPH MALLIA AND MITCHELL FREEDMAN
Newsday Staff Writers

September 7, 2006


A lawyer for a suspended Southampton Village police sergeant said yesterday her client was disciplined because he told a state watchdog agency that "ticket-fixing" was a common practice for village officers.

Attorney Rosemarie Arnold, of Fort Lee, N.J., said that after her client contacted the state Commission on Investigations, officials found that village police could not account for about 15 percent of tickets written by officers in the past two years.

"Fifteen percent - that's a lot of tickets," Arnold said.

Broich went to the commission in May and "reported illegal activity, including ticket-fixing," the lawyer said. She did not give details about the lapses in the processing of the tickets, although her client maintains the actions were deliberate, she said.

She said Broich insisted on processing each ticket by the book.

Mayor Mark Epley said there was no indication the tickets were being deliberately kept out of the village traffic court.

A Commission on Investigation spokesman declined to comment.

Village Police Chief William Wilson said he is cooperating with the inquiry, and he met with state investigators two weeks ago about ticket procedures.

"When I met with them, it was strictly about our internal procedures," he said, declining to comment further.

Broich, who did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, paid a price for making the allegations, Arnold said.

"As soon as the state notifies the department of the situation, he is suspended with pay and put on administrative leave," she said.

She said she then filed a notice of claim stating her intention to file a whistleblower lawsuit and, three days later, the village police department again suspended Broich and charged him with 18 violations, mostly minor administrative infractions, including some from 2005, she said.

At issue is whether the tickets were forwarded to the Village Court for prosecution, as they should have been, Epley said.

The police department searched for missing tickets and found many in patrol cars and elsewhere, he said.

"We found books [of tickets] in lockers and gym bags ... several dozen," Epley said. "We're concerned with the accountability aspect of it. There was a breakdown in the system. ... We can improve on this."

But, he said, the department's initial findings indicate a need for more accountability and a change in procedures to better monitor tickets that are issued by village police.

The mayor confirmed that initial complaints about the tickets came from a village police sergeant who was suspended without pay for 30 days last month for unrelated reasons.

Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for the commission, said it was the agency's policy not to comment on current investigations or to confirm that it is looking at a particular agency.