Town employee suspended for racist messages referring to the president-elect

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A Southampton Town employee has been suspended without pay after being accused of sending other town employees racist and potentially threatening electronic messages related to President-elect Barack Obama shortly after Election Day.

According to several town officials with firsthand knowledge of the comments, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, Jason Judy, employed by the Parks Department, used a racial epithet to refer to the president-elect and talked about burning down the White House. It is unclear how many messages were sent and if they were sent via text or e-mail.

Though the officials would not speak publicly, citing pending litigation, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot confirmed that Mr. Judy was involved in a disciplinary matter with the town involving workplace violence and bias, and that the situation was related to the recent election of President-elect Obama. Ms. Kabot also confirmed that other agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, had been involved in the case.

The supervisor would comment no further on the case, except to say it would be handled by the Southampton Town Board in executive session. “We are not going to try this case in the newspapers,” Ms. Kabot said.

It is unclear how the Secret Service became involved, although one town official said that in such matters it is standard for the town to notify the appropriate agencies.

Kenneth Pleasant, resident agent with the Secret Service field office in Melville, confirmed that the case was an open investigation involving the Town of Southampton but would not comment further.

At its last meeting on Tuesday, December 9, the Town Board appointed Eileen Powers, a former town attorney, to act as the hearing officer in Mr. Judy’s disciplinary proceeding, which will be held on Tuesday, December 23. That hearing will deal only with Mr. Judy’s future with the Town of Southampton, according to Ms. Kabot.

Electronic messages sent using town equipment are subject to public review, under terms of the Freedom of Information Act. But requests to access Mr. Judy’s electronic messages were denied because of the ongoing investigation, according to Town Attorney Dan Adams. “Mr. Judy is presumed innocent,” Mr. Adams said. “In this country, from the highest levels of government to the lowest levels of government, we are entitled to the presumption of innocence, and that applies to Mr. Judy.”

Mr. Adams said he was unsure whether or not Mr. Judy had retained legal counsel. Town officials would not provide contact information for Mr. Judy, though messages asking to speak with him were relayed to him with the help of town officials. His number did not appear to be listed, and other attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

BRIAN BOSSETTA

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