Sag Harbor Village Attorney Denise Schoen, who has served the village in some capacity for much of the past decade, has submitted her resignation, effective the end of the month.
Ms. Schoen’s decision followed a Village Board meeting on Friday in which the board convened into a closed executive session to discuss the hiring of the law firm Sokoloff Stern, LLP, of Carle Place, to handle extra legal work the village has been facing in recent months. The village also recently hired attorney Anne Leahy to handle overflow work.
In an interview on Monday, Ms. Schoen said she had not initially planned to resign, even though she said the village attorney’s job was becoming more and more time consuming as the village considers a rezoning of a portion of its waterfront, has been seeking to update a number sections in its code, from behavior on public beaches to the type of lights allowed under its “dark skies” code provision, and has been busy defending lawsuits arising from decision of the village’s regulatory boards.
She said she had discussed her concern that the job was taking too much of her time with Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy and village Administrator Beth Kamper in February.
“I left that meeting feeling good that we were going to try to make some changes to lighten my workload,” she said.
So she said she was taken aback when the mayor announced during last week’s closed session that her resignation was a done deal. But after thinking about it over the weekend, Ms. Schoen said the time was right for a change.
For her part, Ms. Mulcahy said she was under the impression that Ms. Schoen had already made her decision to leave the village at that February meeting. She insisted that she was not trying to push her out.
“This is horrible news,” she said. “Denise has been a fantastic partner to me and the village. Her knowledge is incredible, and what she doesn’t know, she wants to find out in the most thorough way that is positive for the village.”
“We’re very sad, but we understand,” the mayor added. “This is an overwhelming job.”
Ms. Mulcahy said she was happy Ms. Schoen has agreed to stay on as Planning Board attorney and said she hoped she would be willing to shepherd through the waterfront overlay district zoning initiative, which has been in the works for more than six months.
Ms. Schoen is paid approximately $55,000 a year for the village attorney’s job and another $250 per hour for work she does for the Planning Board. She said she has been typically working more than 50 hours a week as village attorney.
A Sag Harbor native, Ms. Schoen said she took pride in trying to protect the village’s character. “When you give me something to do, I pride myself on giving 100 percent,” she said.
Before being named village attorney when Ms. Mulcahy took office in 2019, Ms. Schoen served as attorney for the Harbor Committee, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board over the past decade.
She also has a private law practice in East Hampton, where she focuses on real estate and land-use cases.