Granville village officials say they are in the process of figuring out what they believe they are owed by Whitehall and Fort Edward for the costs of training police officers when they left the village before three years elapsed.
Whitehall seeks just over $12,000 in funds under the General Municipal Law after Granville hired police officer Marc Morrill from the Whitehall force. Morrill had been a member of the Whitehall force for just over a year before taking the job in Granville.
On Oct. 5 Granville Mayor Jay Niles said there was communication between the two police department heads before Morrill was hired. Also at the Oct. 5 meeting Trustee Gordie Smith said he wanted to be clear that Morrill was not recruited by Granville; he applied to make the move.
Granville Police Chief Ernie Bassett Jr. spoke with Whitehall Chief Matt Dickinson to ensure the move was not going to create a manpower hardship, Niles said. Bassett said he was told it would not and he was given the green light to hire Morrill.
With approval from Whitehall, Bassett said, he went ahead with the lateral transfer. “He could have said no,” Niles said referring to Dickinson, who could have retained Morrill by blocking the move.
“We have been in that position before; we would have considered it,” Niles said.
Village clerk Rick Roberts said he did not know the amounts the village would seek from Whitehall and Fort Edward yet, but he was busy digging into payroll records and checking with Washington County civil service officials for dates of service and pay.
Dickinson said Monday he could not recall exactly how the conversation with Bassett went, but he did not voice any opposition to the move. Dickinson said he told Bassett about a prospective employee and had no qualms about the move to the neighboring department.
“That would be nonsense; that’s not my choice,” Dickinson said when asked if he gave the move a ‘green light.’ The Whitehall chief said he believed he did not have the authority to block the move and further had no desire to do so.
“I’m not going to stand in the way of someone who wants to better their career,” he said. Less than a month later he went to county civil service office and looked for names, hiring Daniel Price in place of Morrill in April, Dickinson said.
Granville had three officers leave the department after receiving training, which would fall under the 1992 municipal law, which Whitehall cites.
The law states that if an officer was trained by one municipality and leaves before the end of three years of service to a similar municipality, then the body that trained the officer can seek compensation from the other for the funds used to train the officer.
Police officers Mark Nelson and Matthew Evans went to the Whitehall department from Granville around 1999 and about 1995, respectively, Roberts said.
Village Attorney Mike Martin last week said his examination of the statute found no three-year time limit like the one Whitehall believed existed, allowing Granville to seek restitution.
Police officer Ryan Pedone left Granville for Fort Edward more recently in 2006.
Roberts said he communicated with the clerks of the two villages, Joan Douglas and Patricia Ives, and tried to let them know Granville still wants to work with them in any way possible. “I hope that whatever the outcome is when this is behind us that it is just that – behind us,” Roberts said.
Whitehall Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti has said recently he still wants to meet with Granville officials. Although plans for a meeting were announced several weeks ago, Granville and Whitehall officials have yet to discuss the matter face to face.
In late August, Putorti said a meeting was to be held sometime after Labor Day. Both boards met Oct. 5 but neither reported any communication from the other regarding a meeting. Putorti said he wanted to clarify the status of the issue between the two municipalities. He said no lawsuit had been filed by Whitehall.