By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO A state Supreme Court judge indicated the creation of the Village of Monticello’s new police commission was illegal, clearing the way for the police union’s related lawsuit to proceed.
“The court finds that the [union’s] petition sufficiently alleges that the Village Board of Trustees acted illegally in enacting and enforcing the Monticello Police Commission Law,” Judge Christopher Cahill wrote in a decision issued last week.
The three-member commission consisting of Mayor Gordon Jenkins, Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins and resident Bess Davis, advised by paid consultant Preston Felton was formed earlier this year after the village board voted 3-2 last December to create such.
Subsequently, the Monticello Police Benevolent Association (PBA, the police union) filed suit, alleging the commission was created illegally and the law should be nullified.
The PBA offered “specific instances where it is alleged that the commission has engaged in the hiring of police officers, promoted officers and reassigned the duties of officers, all without consulting the… police chief; and that the commission has instructed the Police Department to notify it prior to conducting overtime activities, such as highly confidential overnight police raids or service of warrants,” wrote Cahill.
The village asked the court to dismiss the suit, but Cahill found merit in the PBA’s claims and allowed the suit to proceed.
“The Court finds that petitioners sufficiently assert claims that the Monticello Police Commission Law empowers the commission to usurp the supervisory powers and responsibilities of the village police chief, in derogation of Civil Service Law 58 (1-c),” Cahill explained, determining that the commission’s actions may exceed the limits of the authority given to such bodies by state law.
The judge thus refused to dismiss the lawsuit.
The village has until September 4 to respond to Cahill’s ruling, after which the PBA can reply up until September 18.
“We’re very happy with the ruling, and we’re glad somebody saw the truth to the matter,” PBA President and MPD Officer John Riegler said yesterday.
Village Attorney Dennis Lynch, on the other hand, expressed confidence that the court will ultimately rule in the village’s favor.
“We’ll be responding and addressing all the issues,” he stated.
Lynch, who helped draft the law that led to the commission, argued it serves a “vital purpose” in Monticello and has already saved money via restructuring police overtime.
“They’re also an independent way of having civilian complaints heard,” he explained.