Two Westhampton Beach Trustees Oppose Rehiring Of Beach Manager

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Two Westhampton Beach Village Board members are opposing the reappointment of the municipality’s beach manager, with one of them alleging that she gave away beach passes and allowed minors to work off-the-books after the regular staffers returned to college at the end of last summer.

Village Trustee Charlie Palmer, who was joined by Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker in opposing the appointment of Kathleen Gristina at the most recent board meeting on April 17, explained this week that they were alerted about her job performance by a former seasonal employee who was told in January that he would not be reappointed this summer by Mayor Conrad Teller.

In spite of their objections, Mr. Teller and Village Trustees Patricia DiBenedetto and Ralph Urban approved the appointment of Ms. Gristina, who will be making $22 a hour and will be employed full-time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This will mark her third summer as manager of Rogers and Lashley beaches in the village.

Before voting against her appointment, Mr. Palmer also noted that Ms. Gristina—who is the sister of Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean—will be supervising both of her children, ages 19 and 16, and a 16-year-old nephew, who were also appointed as part of the village’s seasonal beach staff. All will be employed as attendants.

Mr. Palmer is insisting that their relationships could cause problems.

“The way this resolution came about, it was not discussed much with the board,” Mr. Palmer said about the resolution to hire Ms. Gristina, and all of the other seasonal beach personnel, that was introduced by Mr. Teller. “I would like to change this resolution.”

The board went forward with the original resolution and voted on the appointments, with the measure passing 3-2.

When reached this week, Ms. Gristina declined to comment about the allegations leveled against her. “I am very excited and I am looking forward to another great season with the village beaches,” she said. “I hope we have another great season and that the weather holds out for another good year.”

The same board members have targeted Chief Dean in recent months and, in the fall, authorized a special audit that, among other things, examined contractual payments that have been made to him. In 2011, the board approved a new five-and-a-half-year contract for Chief Dean, who had been working without a new one for nearly three years. Mr. Tucker was the only board member to vote against the contract.

Mr. Teller said this week that it is his job to appoint the village’s seasonal employees and he has received no formal complaints about Ms. Gristina. He also said he was the one who instructed her to give away the complimentary beach passes, which he is permitted to do, though he could not recall how many he authorized last year. The passes are free for village residents and can cost up to $725 for non-village residents.

The mayor also noted that when he learned that Ms. Gristina had brought on additional cleaning help at the end of last summer, he spoke to her and instructed her not to do it again. Mr. Teller stressed that the additional hires were not lifeguards.

Mr. Teller also dismissed concerns about Ms. Gristina and her ability to supervise her children as employees, noting that routine checks have shown that they do not receive preferential treatment.

Mr. Palmer explained earlier this week that he only learned about the concerns when the former seasonal employee, whom he declined to identify, received a termination letter on trustee letterhead. He added that several issues were brought up by the former employee and have been discussed by trustees in executive session.

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