By CHRISTIAN FALCONE
Long-time Boat Basin Supervisor Peter Fox has been placed on administrative leave by the city, the second department head to be suspended this month.
Although city officials have not commented publicly as to the reason for the suspension, it is believed that Fox was using the city’s workboat for non work-related activities. Fox has been suspended for 30 days with pay, pending an investigation into the allegations.
Boat Basin Supervisor Peter Fox, pictured to the far right, was placed on administrative leave apparently for using the city’s workboat for non work-related matters–including making runs to and from Hen Island while tugging a barge. Contributed photo
Boat Basin Commission Chair Andrew Bodnar said he had learned of “funny stuff going on at night” and “shenanigans going on at the marina” during the commission’s Aug. 16 meeting.
Previously, the commission had expressed concerns over rumors that Fox had been using the marina workboat recklessly, exposing the marina to great liability.
Fox was warned and told if it happened again, the city manager would be notified. It is unclear if Fox continued the alleged behavior.
Fox, 59, has operated the marina for roughly 20 years. It is also unclear who reported Fox’s action to city officials, but sources say two employees under the supervisor’s command have long been a thorn in Fox’s side, coveting his job and could have blown the whistle.
On Oct. 13, City Manager Scott Pickup, during a special meeting, recommended that the City Council take the lead on an investigation he felt should run similar to the Rye Golf Club probe, which consists of a criminal investigation, and eventually a forensic audit of the club’s finances.
The City Council voted to take control of the investigation.
Republican Councilwoman Laura Brett voted against the council’s decision to lead the probe.
Brett said she felt the two investigations are different, in her view. Additionally, because Pickup had made comments to the press about his awareness of Rye Golf Club Manager Scott Yandrasevich’s relationship with the RM Staffing company–which provides contracted staffing for the club–Brett felt having the city manager involved in the golf club scrutiny was contentious.
“I felt there was a conflict in having Scott [Pickup] oversee that investigation,” said Brett, who was recently appointed as the Boat Basin Commission liaison. “With the boat basin, there really has been no suggestion that Scott [Pickup] is not in a position to undertake an investigation or any reason to suspect there is a conflict of interest.”
Republican Councilman Joe Sack supported the decision to oversee the investigaton, but did say the only parallel between the two cases, in his opinion, was the fact that the two supervisors had been placed on administrative leave, leaving some to question the intent of the City Council’s involvement.
A critic of the current city administration, Hen Island resident Ray Tartaglione said the city is making a mountain out of a molehill in an effort to deflect attention away from the mayor and city manager’s involvement in the golf club scandal.
It is believed that the marina workboat was seen in the outer harbor carrying non-boat basin personnel. The workboat, driven by Fox, was also seen pulling a stuck boater out of the mud flats. Supervisor Fox said that it was a permit holder. However, a majority of the commission felt it wasn’t a prudent enough reason to risk liability by using the workboat. The commission also said that the boat is not to be used to ferry goods or push barges to Hen Island.
Bodnar said there had also been two separate incidents involving a barge pulled by Fox’s workboat. Witnesses say a riding lawnmower fell off the barge while it was out in the harbor. And the barge, on a separate occasion, also sunk. Tartaglione claims that the lawnmover in question is currently on the island.
The barge had been owned by Rye resident Ford Winter and then sold to island resident Laurie De Caro. The barge is used by Tartaglione and others on the island. Tartaglione had been paying for a marina slip for it.
The city-owned and operated public marina provides 425 numbered summer boat slips. Fox manages the marina and reports to the city manager. He is paid an annual salary of approximately $73,000.
The boat basin is set up as an enterprise fund and is responsible for all costs associated with the operation and maintenance of the facility including maintenance dredging of its waters, and is not funded by the city taxpayers.
Phone calls to City Manager Pickup and Supervisor Fox were not returned as of press time.