At the last town board meeting on February 10th, the town board voted to abolish the police commission. The OD editorial warns:
That means the police department has the potential to become politicized again.However, the very fact that members were appointed to the commission by the town board and three of the five previous members served for 10+ years makes this commission political. Let's not fool ourselves, members of the commission marched to the beat of the police chief's drum, otherwise, they would have been replaced by new members long ago.
Add to that the reality that absent a town law there are no rules governing the police commission, in other words, the commission as it stood had more power than the town board in police matters. That is about to change now that the police commission has been abolished.
Over the past few years, Concerned Citizens blogged about several questionable situations involving the police department. Yet, Chairman of the Police Commission, Patrick Cardinale, said at the last town board meeting that the commission was unaware of any issues being reported by Concerned Citizens. That's odd because we were informed that Police Commission members were using their monthly meetings to discuss what to do to get even with Concerned Citizens; they were furious with the reporting we were doing.
The editorial goes on to say:
The scandal became known by the term “Code 31,” a term quite disturbing to New Hartford residents of a generation ago....Its existence confirmed residents’ worst fears – that the big shots get special treatment.Come on...we have spoken to many people regarding "Code 31"; the only ones that remember it are the politicians. There were no residents interviewed in the old newspaper articles and none interviewed in the most recent articles...so where did the editorial board come up with the assumption that it was "quite disturbing" to town residents.
Isn't it amazing how village officials and police commission members had to dredge up the past to support their view that the commission must be kept in existence; they simply couldn't come up with any legal documents. And the Observer Dispatch fell for it hook, line and sinker. Anyone know whose name was on that "Code 31" list? You can be sure that you won't see the list posted in the Observer Dispatch [wink, wink].
At the February 10, 2010 town board meeting when the police commission was abolished, the discussion was that possibly a police advisory committee would be formed to take the place of the commission. That may be the a viable alternative somewhere down the road, but not before the town board clearly defines the powers of that advisory committee. There needs to be term limits; it needs to be clear that they only serve an advisory role; and members of the committee should be representative of all wards in town.
However, first and foremost, the town board should start by updating the town's Code of Ethics. The town board at the January 1, 2010 meeting already started to address that by adopting a resolution to reinstate the Ethics Board, but they need to make it a priority to convene that board and charge it with updating the Town Code of Ethics...it hasn't been updated since June 17, 1970...pre-dating the Code 31 incident!
The Town of Whitestown had an ethics code similar to the Town of New Hartford code until September 19, 2007, when they adopted a new ethics code requiring, among other things, Disclosure of Interest forms for all town officials and many town employees whether paid or upaid; the Town of New Hartford needs to make similar updates to their Code of Ethics.
The editorial ends with the following, referring to corruption:
We all know such things happen elsewhere. We know they happened in New Hartford a generation ago.We have to disagree to the part about corruption being in the past...corruption has been ongoing in the Town of New Hartford in many areas. However, Supervisor Tyksinski is well on the way to putting an end to many past practices. He has a difficult task ahead of him, but we are confident that he and his team will rise to the occasion.
It cannot be allowed to happen again, and it’s the responsibility of the town supervisor and the Town Board to make sure it does not.