Tip leads to cop firing

Granville Village officials anticipate firing a Police officer this week expecting he could not show proof he had New York State residency after a residency requirement was discovered.

Patrol officer Joseph Castle, a veteran of the police force with nearly five years of experience will be terminated, Mayor Jay Niles said, because he could not provide proof of his residency to the satisfaction of village officials.

Castle and another officer, Mark Morrill, had been notified of the residency requirement by the village; however, Morrill was able to show proof of New York State residency when village officials requested it.

The village found out about the residency requirement when an individual informed the mayor; the individual got his information from a lawyer, Niles said.

When village officials did research into the claim it was found the requirement did exist and both officers living in Vermont were notified they had one week to provide proof of residency.

Both officers were placed on 30-day paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the residency issue. At the end of the week the officers had to prove residence, resign or be fired, Niles said.

“We took the actions we legally had to take,” Niles said.

Village attorney Mike Martin said this was not an action the village wanted to take, but one they felt they had to.

“No one in the village government wants to do something to harm the village police department but the board feels like they have a gun to their heads there’s nothing they can do,” Martin said.

The village had to act, Martin said, because they were now aware of the law and that left them open to liability particularly in cases involving use of force.

Niles said the village was unaware of the requirement until the issue was raised by the individual, whom he declined to name, saying only the individual came to him with the information.

The matter stems from an obscure portion of the public officer’s law requiring officers or office holders including law enforcement or corrections officers to reside within the state to enforce the state’s laws.

Granville Police Benevolent Association President David Williams said a similar matter is being decided relating to corrections officer within the state.

This was not a case where the officer was attempting to conceal where he resided as Castle drove a vehicle with Vermont plates and volunteers as a firefighter in Middletown Springs volunteer fire department, Williams said.

Castle was originally told residing in Vermont was not an issue.

Chief Bassett said he spoke with civil service specifically about this issue when hiring Castle and had been given assurances his moving to Vermont to live was not a problem. “As of Tuesday last week we didn’t even know this was an issue,” Bassett said.

Bassett said he received the same answer when contacting civil service again after the issue was raised, when he was again told it was not an issue. “We contacted a lot of different agencies and got a lot of different answers,” Bassett said. Martin said the fact that Castle received bad information from civil service did not change the law and the law bound village officials to act as they have.     

Williams said he was aware of cases involving corrections officers who received waivers of this requirement through conversations with the President of NYSCOPBA Donn Rowe. One possible outcome is ‘grandfathering’ those officers, Williams said.

Corrections officers currently have an injunction filed in the residency matter while a decision is made regarding their status, Williams said.

Morrill had recently moved to Poultney after living in Whitehall and had not changed over his driver’s license or other materials used to prove residency, officials said.

Morrill made the move based on Castle’s residency but was in the process of moving back to New York in light of the revelation of the residency requirement, officials said.

Niles said the officers needed to show a driver’s license, voter registration or they received mail at a New York address to satisfy residency requirements.

Martin then makes the decision if the proof provided by the officer is acceptable.

The action does not offer a get-out-of-jail-free-card for anyone arrested by either officer, Niles said.

The village has been in contact with Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright who said no arrests would be comprised by the residency issue. In the mean time, down one officer, Bassett said he would fill the gaps left by Castle with part time officers and overtime shifts.

 

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