In July 2018, East Hampton Village sent a letter to Francis Bock and the East Hampton Town Trustees with a seemingly innocuous request: a request to ban “vaping” at the East Hampton Village Beach pavilion. The ban would accompany a ban on smoking already in place.
Innocuous, perhaps, but necessary. The town trustees control all of the village beaches, and Chapter 77 of the village code acknowledges trustees’ permission would be needed to pass a law concerning the beach. “I’m not sure what happened, but for whatever reason, they did not give us permission,” related Rebecca Molinaro-Hansen, the village administrator.
Undeterred, the village passed the law under a different portion of the code, Section 211, which deals specifically with smoking in public. She said she thought the matter ended there. “We have a good relationship” with the trustees. “When they raise an issue, we listen,” Molinaro-Hansen said. “We felt this was important.”
Several members of the trustees took notice, as did that board’s attorney, cognizant that such a move could set an unwelcome precedence wherein the village usurps authority from the trustees.
Former long-time Village Police Chief Gerard Larsen questioned the move as well, and with good reason. He intends to run for mayor of the village (the election is in June 2020) and wants to keep things on the straight and narrow.
“It’s about procedure. They didn’t get what they wanted. The village attorney should have advised them they couldn’t do it,” said Larsen.
Larsen and Mayor Paul Rickenbach have been at odds for a while. Larsen sued the mayor, Trustee Richard Lawler, and the village last year, over a private business venture, but said one had nothing to do with the other.
“I have no ill will. I did what I did because what they did was unethical,” said Larsen. The suit was dismissed on a technicality.
Larsen said the situation is such in the village that if the status quo prevails, a small group of insiders will run the village with impunity. One change he promised if elected: “term limits.”