Chief William Wilson will be the next Southampton Town Police Department chief, the town supervisor disclosed Friday, and Wilson's competition for the top cop spot is not happy.
“I’m disappointed not only for myself, but that the town board didn’t really consider the lieutenants who are very qualified for the position,” Southampton Town Police Captain Anthony Tenaglia said. Tenaglia has been filling retired Chief James Overton’s shoes until a replacement is installed.
Wilson said he was excited about the opportunity.
"I've had a blessed career. I'm humbled by the faith that the town board is putting in me," he said. "It's very special because I'm an East End resident and having the opportunity to serve as chief of police for two of my hometown police departments is just incredible. I'm looking forward to working with the team over there. I know many of them very well."
Tenaglia, who interviewed for the spot himself, decried the board’s decision to go outside the department.
“It’s a vote of no confidence for the command staff of the that have worked and been here during every major catastrophe, sacrificing their time.”
Tenaglia said the community supported him “overwhelmingly” in his bid for the seat. “The town board didn’t listen to the community. It’s not good at all. I believe it was more of a political decision than anything else.”
"Choosing the next police chief is the single most important appointment this sitting town board will ever make," said Councilwoman Nancy Graboski. "I am greatly disappointed that a majority on the board has decided to bypass Captain Anthony Tenaglia, the most qualified and experienced candidate for the position ..."
Graboski went on to say that she believes Wilson, as well as Lieutenants Robert Iberger, Lawrence Schurek and Robert Pearce, all of whom screened for the position, "are fine professionals in their own right." But she said there is no question in her mind that Tenaglia is the most deserving "based on his years of service, dedication, job commitment, knowledge, leadership, professionalism and command presence."
"Some decisions are a real struggle and solutions don’t come easily," she said. "But in this case the right thing to do is so clear, that it defies all reason that the town board has not selected Captain Tenaglia for appointment to this important position. On the resolution I will be voting no."
Iberger said he was also disappointed. "But it’s the board’s decision," he conceded. "I appreciate their affording us the opportunity to interview, and I gave it my best shot. If the feeling is that Chief Wilson is the best choice, that’s who they have to go with."
He added, "but I feel even worse for the captain."
Since news spread Friday afternoon of the board’s decision, Tenaglia said he’s been flooded with phone calls from well wishers expressing their shock and disappointment. “I’ve gotten so many calls from people saying this is wrong,” he said.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst sent out a release Friday stating the board had decided in executive session to appoint Wilson at a special meeting on Monday night at 6 p.m.
“After several weeks of intensive discussion and careful deliberation, I am pleased to announce the town board will appoint William Wilson Jr. the next chief of the Southampton Town police,” Throne-Holst said in a statement to the press. “This has been a very difficult decision for us all because we have great respect and appreciation for all of the fine officers who were considered for this position. But I am confident we have made the choice that will provide our town with a strong, progressive vision for the future.”
Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said she is proud to support Wilson, and her vote was not against any other candidate. "I am humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to cast a vote that will have such a meaningful impact on the town of Southampton," she wrote in an e-mail Friday. "We had an embarrassment of riches in terms of the remarkable experience and talent of the candidates for the position."
Fleming noted that Wilson was born in Southampton Hospital and has spent 25 years in law enforcement. "Chief Wilson offers a unique and commanding vision for the future of the Southampton PD," she said. "I thank all the candidates, particularly the four candidates who have given their careers to our town, who were not chosen. I'm so glad they serve and protect us because they are outstanding members of the service."
Upon hearing the news, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said the village is sad to see him go.
"He’s been an incredible asset," he said. "But you never want to stand in someone’s way.”
Controversy has swirled around Overton’s replacement, with both Tenaglia and Wilson vying for the seat.
The board abruptly canceled a special meeting two weeks ago scheduled to select a new chief; instead the board cast a wider net and opened the position to town lieutenants, who interviewed on Tuesday for the post.
According to civil service law, the police department falls into the category of promotion field, meaning promotions happen from within, when possible, using existing talent and experience.
The Southampton Town Board, as the town’s police commissioners, make the decision about “just how far down the ranks to offer the chief’s exam,” Throne-Holst said.
The town has the right to open the playing field, as long as both the sending and receiving municipalities agree.