Mayor Niles to Whitehall: No.
Granville has no intention of paying Whitehall more than $15,000 for the cost of training a police officer who left Whitehall’s police department to join Granville’s force earlier this year, village Mayor Jay Niles said.
Mark Morrill was hired in Granville as a full-time patrol officer, leaving the Whitehall department seven months after completing academy training.
At their July meeting Whitehall village trustees discussed asking Granville for $15,777.04 to cover 83 percent of the training and salary costs for Morrill because he did not remain with the department.
Citing general municipal law, Whitehall officials said they believed they were entitled to recoup expenses incurred in training Morrill.
Niles said, however, that is not the case and it is up to Whitehall to install a provision in its police contact similar to what Granville has, requiring officers to remain for three years following being trained.
Niles the he discussed the matter with Whitehall Village Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti during a phone call Thursday morning.
“The mayor called me this morning and said he was supposed to talk with me about this,” Niles said. The Granville mayor said that was the first time anyone from Whitehall had made contact with Granville regarding the matter, which has been the subject of a number of published reports.
“I told him, ‘No one’s discussed this with me prior to you calling me,’” Niles said.
The phone conversation between the two was “amiable” and “information seeking,” Niles said. “It was not tense at all, just two mayors discussing something; he just wanted to know our position,” Niles said.
Putorti said he talked to Niles and asked him if there was any money in the Granville village budget to reimburse Whitehall for the cost of training Morrill.
Putorti said Niles was up front with him when he responded to the questions; he told him, “no,” Granville did not plan to give Whitehall any money.
“I said, ‘Oh, OK,’” Putorti said.
“I understand that money is tight and funds are not available at either place,” Putorti said.
Asked what was next for Whitehall, the mayor said, “I have his answer and I’ll bring that back to the board.”
Putorti said the village trustees would meet next July 20 and decide what to do at that time, but he would not speculate on what the action might be. Putorti said there were members of his board who felt they were entitled to reimbursement.
What that might mean for the future of the matter, Putorti said he did not know. “I can’t speak for them,” he said.
Niles said he spoke with village attorney Mike Martin and the board prior to the phone call and all are in agreement – there will be no payment.
“We’re not going to be paying for any of that time,” Niles said.
“We try to be good neighbors,” Niles said.
As an example the Granville mayor cited the shared police chief concept, an idea floated by the Whitehall Village Board. Niles said Granville had no need to do something like that but was willing to talk about it in the spirit of cooperation.
In the case of the department of public works, Niles said individual workers and occasionally the entire DPW crew had gone to Whitehall to help out on occasion, “And we don’t back bill for that,” he said.
Niles said he mentioned to Putorti that in the most recent Police Beat in the Sentinel an officer from Whitehall called a Granville officer to the village to use a piece of test equipment called a Datamaster.
The Datamaster measures blood alcohol content and is used in processing individuals arrested for driving while intoxicated.
The Granville officer called to Whitehall was Morrill.
“I guess we helped you out there,” Niles said he told Putorti.
Whitehall might want to be reimbursed, but Niles said this was just a case when Whitehall had to act to protect itself against future cases and consider those funds lost. Granville lost patrol officers to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department during the administration of Tom Scott and did not see compensation.
“Many times, I assume, the county has hired officers away (from municipalities) and you never hear about anybody paying for that,” he said.
Niles said he and the village board were in agreement and felt it was up to Whitehall to put a provision into its police contract obligating officers to stay in place after being trained.
Niles said the provision in the Granville village police contract requires officers sent through the academy by the village to remain with the force for three years after completion of the training.
Niles said there had been no discussion of another meeting when the two spoke on the phone.
“It seemed he wanted to report back to his board first,” Niles said.
“This doesn’t change anything; we would still go down there today if they needed help, we want to maintain a good relationship with our neighbor because all villages need to work together,” Niles said.