The village of Whitehall asked nicely, and the answer was “no.”
Now, the village will be seeking legal action.
Whitehall will push forward with a suit against the village of Granville, asking for slightly more than $15,000 in compensation from the municipality for training that was completed by an officer in Whitehall who then changed jobs to Granville approximately seven months later.
“We can’t just hand over the training cost to them,” said Trustee Walter Sandford. “There is a municipal law on the books and Mr. (Anthony) Jordan (village attorney and New York State Assemblyman) can look into that and go get the money.”
Trustee Kenneth Bartholomew said he is now in favor of legal action, now that Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti had taken the matter to Granville Mayor Jay Niles.
“I second this now because we asked them nice,” said Bartholomew. “We asked them pretty please and now were gonna have to get bad.”
Sandford said that he did not see it as being bad.
“We’re doing something honest here,” said Sandford. “This is money that is owed to us for the training expenses that we paid for an officer that left.”
Trustees Sally Raino and Michael LaChapelle questioned if the village should put in officers’ contracts that if they are trained in Whitehall, they need to stay in the village police force for the entirety of the three-year period.
“Why don’t we put something into our contract like Granville and some others have,” said Raino.
“I think that this is our mistake by not putting something like this in the contract,” said LaChapelle. “I’d hate to ruin a relationship over this.”
“I have heard that it is not lawful to do that,” countered Sandford. “These laws are in place so towns like ours don’t have this happen where these towns become training grounds for young officers who then go off to bigger and better things right after they go through everything.”
“I am pretty sure that you can’t hold an individual responsible for three years on any contract,” said Whitehall Police Chief Matthew Dickinson. “Walt would be someone who is very up on these matters, too.”
LaChapelle added that he felt Niles had a point when stating last week that he felt the two villages worked well together and had a good in-kind relationship.
“They have been good neighbors and we have worked well together,” said LaChapelle. “I’d hate to lose that relationship with our next-door neighbors.”
“I’d like to think they have $15,000-plus in in-kind services that they have given to us,” said Sandford. “But this money owed to us and we should go after it.”
“Whatever the past is, that doesn’t matter with this,” said Bartholomew.
The village then voted by a tally of 4-1 to pursue a suit, with LaChapelle the lone dissenting vote.
“If this is the decision, then I am behind my board 100-percent,” said Putorti.
Jordan said that with the board’s decision, he will now draft a letter to the village of Granville stating his municipality’s position.
“We’ll send a letter to the village setting forth the reasons why this board feels they are entitled to compensation,” said Jordan. “This is not something that is unprecedented, and it was something that was actually brought up by Chief Dickinson because a big deal was made about the matter during a conference that he attended.”
Dickinson said that he was behind the board’s decision.
“I think that this is a good idea, to be honest with you,” said Dickinson. “The key thing here is that the officer was trained with the taxpayers’ money in Whitehall and now he is gone to Granville. I would expect the same course of action if the shoe was on the other foot. It’s unfortunate that it has to come to this, but the law is there for a reason.”
Putorti did say that he would have contacted Niles earlier if he had it to do over again.
“I probably should have spoken to Jay when I first got into office,” said Putorti. “When I came into office, Matt was already looking into this. That’s when I should have went over there, looking back.”
Reached at home Granville Mayor Jay Niles said Tuesday morning he had not heard about any results from the Whitehall meeting. When informed of Whitehall’s decision to pursue a lawsuit, Niles said, “Well, my reaction is that we’ll turn that over to village attorney Mike Martin as soon as we receive official legal notice from them,” Niles said. Niles said he had not received any communication from Whitehall since his phone conversation with Putorti. Asked what came next, Niles said he was not sure, “I haven’t experienced this before so myself and the board will follow the advice of (our attorney).”