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East Hampton Chamber Director Resigns

Thu, 02/01/2024 - 11:37
Mary Waserstein has resigned from her post as executive director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce.
David Waserstein

Mary Waserstein, named executive director of the Greater East Hampton Chamber of Commerce just this past fall, has resigned.

“I haven’t been paid in four months, and I’ve repeatedly asked for payment,” Ms. Waserstein said in a phone call.

“It’s obviously chamber business but it’s unfortunate because everyone seemed to be working well together,” East Hampton Village Mayor Jerry Larsen said in a phone call. His administration has long been hopeful that the chamber would reconstitute and help promote village businesses, with events that would help drive shoppers downtown.

Despite her exit, a Feb. 10 chamber event dubbed Share the Love, featuring discounted shopping in over 20 stores throughout the village, will go on, according to the chamber board. The board comprises Barbara Layton, Nicole Castillo, Alex Piccirillo, Mark Smith, Robert Mangels, Carl Irace, Antonella Bertello, and Suzanne Wolfson.

In her letter of resignation submitted to the board on Monday night, Ms. Waserstein wrote, “When I was engaged by the chamber of commerce on Oct. 4, 2023, the understanding was that the starting salary would be $75,000 annually. Compensation would be delayed until January of 2024, when the chamber expected to hit a fund-raising goal of $300,000 at which point, I would be made whole.”

The structure was different from that of some chambers. The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, for example, which is sponsoring HarborFrost this weekend, does not have any paid positions. However, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce also has a paid executive director.

Ms. Waserstein said that at a Jan. 9 meeting she was offered $1,200 for her work in October, November, and December, and $400 per week until June, which would have been a total of $10,800 for eight months of work. The additional $49,280 of her agreed-to salary would be deferred. Ms. Waserstein said she met with Ms. Layton, the president of the chamber, and told her she could not accept that offer. Further, Ms. Waserstein claims she emailed the board a counteroffer and had not heard back.

The “lack of response regarding my multiple requests for compensation” and her “inability to work for free” both “played a part in my decision to resign,” she wrote in her letter.

The chamber is run by a board of directors, and Ms. Waserstein was to report to them. But she took issue with only three directors being members of the chamber, when the bylaws of the organization make that a requirement.

She states in her letter that after voicing her concerns on these issues to the board and failing to get a response, she detailed them to East Hampton Village officials last Thursday. She is asking the chamber for back compensation for her past months of work, a total sum of $25,000. “It’s been crickets from the board,” she said by phone.

“Given the hard work and endless hours I have contributed over the last four months I am myself shocked to be writing this letter of resignation, but find my hands tied by both the lack of consensus on compensation as well as my deep concerns about the adherence to the bylaws of the chamber of commerce,” she wrote in closing.

A spokesperson for the chamber’s board acknowledged that it had received and accepted Ms. Waserstein’s letter of resignation, wished her luck, and said it will be looking for a new executive director.

The chamber recently launched its new website, Membership costs $195 for nonprofits and $350 for regular businesses. As of early January, it had 34 members.

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