Court action keep officer on the job

The Granville Police officer facing the loss of his job over a residency question went back to work the night of April 28 instead of attending a disciplinary hearing.

Village officials confirmed last week that officer Joseph Castle was scheduled to return to work following action in Washington County Court.

Castle had faced a disciplinary hearing for failing to provide proof of New York State residency when questions of residency were raised recently.

Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan granted an injunction similar to the one allowing state corrections officers to remain on the job as the issue of workers who reside outside of the state is considered.

The injunction provides 60 days for the New York State Union of Police Associations (NYSUPA) to resolve the issue.

If that does not happen Castle could still lose his job.

“The court ruled he can return to work immediately and no action will be taken at this time, now there’s 60 day for village and attorneys to discuss it,” Granville Police Benevolent Association President Sgt. David Williams said.

News of the granted injunction caused the hearing, scheduled for April 28, to be cancelled.

“We never believed it was an issue, he asked for permission from county civil service to be in Vermont and believed he could (live) there; we just want to be supportive so he can return to work as soon as possible and relieve the burden on the rest of the department,” Williams said.

Village Clerk Treasurer Rick Roberts said he received notice to reinstate Castle on the payroll, but had no details other than that. Castle was placed on unpaid leave prior to the disciplinary hearing.

Castle had no comment on the matter when contacted at the station over the weekend citing the still ongoing issue.

Calls to Castle’s NYSUPA attorney James Duckham were not returned prior to deadline.

Castle and Officer Mark Morrill found out at the beginning of March they could not reside outside of New York State and continue to work as a police officer due to an obscure portion of civil service law that requires residency for those who hold public office, including police officers.

Officials told both men they must provide proof of New York state residency to remain on the job and both men were placed on administrative leave.

Morrill who had only recently moved across the border into Poultney, Vt. showed his driver’s license and other documentation which had not been switched over to Vermont and was taken off administrative leave and was able to stay of the job.

Morrill immediately began the process of moving back into New York State.

Castle has not provided the village with any proof of residency. When he failed to comply with deadlines issued by the village the matter changed from administrative to disciplinary and the hearing date was set.

An officer with approximately five years on the Granville police force, Castle asked for, and was given permission to reside outside of the state when he was hired.

Police Chief Ernie Bassett Jr. and Williams each confirmed inquiries were made with civil service at the county level asking if living in Vermont was permitted.

Bassett received confirmation the move was permitted and Castle accepted the job; one he told the police chief he did not plan to take unless he could reside in Vermont. 

Former Mayor Jay Niles said at the time a resident brought the previously unknown issue to his attention during a one on one meeting.

Martin looked into the matter at Niles’ request and found that was the case as a number of corrections officers were facing the same issue across the state.   

Williams said he’s hopeful the issue can be resolved to retain Castle on the Granville police force as his absence and loss of a full time employee creates a large gap in the schedule. 

“We’re supportive of him coming back as soon as possible,” Williams said. “Losing a full time officer was definitely causing manpower issues covering shifts, vacation and getting time off no doubt.”  

New patrol officer Josh Whitney is currently at the police academy full-time and will not be finished until mid-July. Whitney was hired as a part-time officer, but with academy training complete he would be available to work on his own; officers without academy training must be supervised and work with another officer.  

Williams said the department has had to use a combination of part time officers, overtime shifts as well as modifying their overall shift structure to cover the gap left by Castle. “It will be very helpful to have that 40 hours back in the lineup,” he said.

 

 

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