Fired Riverhead employee had filed complaint

Town Board, Linda Hulse, Riverhead, Jodi Giglio, Sean Walter
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Sean Walter and Jodi Giglio during Wednesday’s fighting in Town Hall.

Former Riverhead Town Board coordinator Linda Hulse had filed a complaint against Councilman George Gabrielsen on the same day Mr. Gabrielsen and two other councilmembers introduced a resolution to fire her, according to a Town Hall source familiar with the situation that exploded at a Town Board meeting Wednesday.

But Mr. Gabrielsen said Friday he has received no notice of any complaint being made against him. The source said the complaint was made to the town’s personnel officers, Meg Ferris and Ray Coyne, but did not say what the specifics of the complaint were.

“Nothing has been brought to me,” Mr. Gabrielsen reiterated.

No proof of a complaint was furnished for a News-Review reporter.

Ms. Hulse, who had been hired as Town Board coordinator in 2011, was fired by a three-member board majority on Wednesday by a resolution that had not been on the Town Board’s printed agenda.

Board members spent more than an hour arguing over the resolution, which Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy opposed, saying they knew nothing about until it was presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mr. Dunleavy said after Wednesday’s meeting that he was aware of a complaint being made against one of the three board members who brought the resolution to fire Ms. Hulse, but he wouldn’t say which one or what the complaint was about.

Ms. Hulse declined comment when reached Friday.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Supervisor Sean Walter said publicly of Ms. Hulse, “I personally happen to believe she’s a whistle blower and has raised a complaint against a board member and you’re looking to get rid of a whistleblower. This is retaliation for her actions.”

The supervisor declined to give any more specifics on Friday.

Mr. Walter and Mr. Dunleavy had accused Mr. Gabrielsen and councilmembers Jim Wooten and Jodi Giglio of being “cowards” for not talking to Ms. Hulse being firing her, as the supervisor claimed is done whenever the town fires someone.

The supervisor also claimed that it’s legally risky to fire someone without first checking with labor attorneys.

Ms. Giglio meanwhile says that Ms. Hulse was hired as an “at will” employee, meaning she’s not under contract and isn’t a union employee, and can be fired at the pleasure of the board by a majority of the board with a three-vote majority.

She denied that the firing had anything to do with Ms. Hulse being a “whistleblower,” as the supervisor had said, and said on Friday that she still has no knowledge of any complaint being made by Ms. Hulse.

“There is no one incident that led to this,” Mr. Gabrielsen said Friday. “This goes back six to eight months. She has not been working with the board.”

Ms. Giglio said at Wednesday’s meeting that the three board members looking to let Ms. Hulse had trust issues with her.

“Three of us don’t have that trust,” she said.

Mr. Walter, who on Wednesday questioned if the vote was legal due to procedure issues, said on Friday that it was indeed a legal vote.

Asked about the alleged complaint, the supervisor said he doubted a complaint filed with the town’s personnel officers against an elected official would carry much weight.

The supervisor said Ms. Hulse, who is president of the Riverhead Rotary Club and has been involved in numerous charitable endeavors, is a respected  member of the community and he called the move to fire her without warning “the most insensitive thing I’ve ever seen.”

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