Montauk Coast Guard captain wins support from Rep. KingBy Bill Bleyer
October 28, 2009
The officer removed from command of the Coast Guard's Montauk station last week has received new support from a Long Island congressman and a former head of the facility.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Tuesday he had contacted Coast Guard officials and asked them to reconsider their decision to relieve Chief Petty Officer James Weber from command.
And East Hampton Senior Harbormaster Ed Michels, who ran the Montauk station before retiring from the Coast Guard 17 years ago, said he decided to organize a letter-writing campaign of support for Weber. He thinks the agency overreacted.
"Obviously there have been some mistakes, but I would hope the Coast Guard would take into account his entire career and find some way to lessen the penalty," King said in an interview.
Michels said "he's been a great officer in charge. I understand that there are rules and regulations to follow. But in my opinion, being that there was no damage to the boats, this went a little too far."
Weber has decided to appeal the decision, friends said. He was relieved of command because the agency said he and a subordinate took a pair of $1.2-million, 47-foot rescue boats into heavy surf in August even though they were not officially qualified to do so. Weber's Coast Guard certification to steer in high surf had expired; the person steering the second boat had never qualified to operate in surf.
The decision has been widely criticized by commercial boat captains in Montauk and others who have worked with him at Coast Guard stations there and at Jones Beach and Fire Island.
Weber has been reassigned to the administrative staff of Group Long Island Sound, headquartered in New Haven. He could not be reached for comment.
Lt. Cmdr. John Cashman of the Coast Guard 1st District legal office in Boston said a person removed from command has at least five days to submit a response and provide backup information. The person relieved can also request a meeting with the district commander. Weber's friends said he has done that and will meet Thursday with Rear Adm. Joe Nimmich. Cashman said he could not comment on the status of Weber's case.