Rowback statements questioned by Gloversville council

From left, Sixth Ward Council member Wrandy Siarkowski, Fifth Ward Council member Jay Zarrelli, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio, Third Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor, Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds and First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss conduct a city 2022 budget hearing on Oct. 7. 

Photo Caption: From left, Sixth Ward Council member Wrandy Siarkowski, Fifth Ward Council member Jay Zarrelli, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio, Third Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor, Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds and First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss conduct a city 2022 budget hearing Oct. 7. JASON SUBIK/THE LEADER-HERALD

GLOVERSVILLE — Five members of the Gloversville Common Council, and the minutes kept during Friday’s budget meeting, indicate Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr. did not vote with the majority of the council to authorize the hiring of two new police officers in 2022, contradicting Rowback’s statements to The Leader-Herald on Sunday.

Rowback, who is also the Republican Party candidate for mayor on the November ballot, presided over the Friday budget meeting in his capacity as deputy mayor while Mayor Vince DeSantis was attending to a personal family health issue.

Rowback on Sunday told The Leader-Herald that he had voted with the majority in approving a two-police-officer-solution, instead of the four new police officers DeSantis had originally proposed in his 2022 budget. Rowback on Sunday said he believed that the vote for the two-police-officer-solution was 6-1, with 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio being the one dissenting vote. Rowback said he voted with the majority and the reason he did so was: “Two is better than none, if it were my choice I would have liked to have seen four.”

Ensure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out LeaderHerald.com/Subscribe

On Monday and Tuesday, 6th Ward Council member Wrandy Siarkowski, 5th Ward Council member Jay Zarrelli, 3rd Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor, 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds and 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss all said Rowback’s statements regarding the vote were incorrect.

On Tuesday, Gloversville Commissioner of Finance Tammie Weiterschan said she kept the minutes for the budget meeting. She provided those minutes to The Leader-Herald, which indicate four motions were made during the meeting regarding the issue of whether or not to keep the four new officers in the budget or go down to two and other circumstances related to the hiring of the new officers.

These are the motions contained in Weiterschan’s meeting minutes:

• 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio made the first motion to support DeSantis’ proposal to add four additional police officers in 2022.

“I still thought four police officers are needed,” Anadio said Tuesday. “I’ve got a bullet hole in my house, OK? I woke up there were casings, with the little yellow things, all out in front of my house, you know? I think that should be acknowledged, and that people should care.”

None of the members of the council seconded Anadio’s motion, so it failed.

• Siarkowski then made the 2nd budget motion: to include zero new police officers in the 2022 budget, which was seconded by fellow Republican Zarrelli. Siarkowski’s budget motion was defeated in a 2-5 vote, with a bi-partisan majority of the council including Republicans Rowback, Simonds and Anadio voting with Democrats Weiss and Batchelor to kill the motion.

• Simonds then put forward the 3rd budget motion: to authorize the hiring of two new police officers, but only for the duration of the next two-year extension of the city’s police labor union contract, after which the chief of police would need to request the council continue funding the additional police officers.

Gloversville’s current police union contract expired Jan. 1, 2019, but has remained in place under the Triborough Amendment of New York state’s Taylor Law, which mandates public employee union contracts remain in place after they expire until a new deal is agreed to by both sides.

Weiterschan on Tuesday said the city’s police union contract went into arbitration on Sept. 30.

Simonds on Tuesday said he believes the union will likely succeed in arbitration, “costing the city about $300,000”, but he believes the contract will be settled by the end of the year, enabling his proposal to limit the new officers to the duration of a new two-year extension to work.

Several council members said they were not exactly certain what Simonds had proposed. Rowback on Sunday indicated he thought the two-officer-solution approved by the majority of the council was tied to the length of a new labor contract, like Simonds proposal would have been, but Simonds plan died when no member of the council seconded his motion.

• Batchelor then made the fourth and final budget motion, proposing the two-officer-solution compromise ultimately approved by the majority of the council. Batchelor’s plan allows for the hiring of two additional police officers in 2022, but is tied to the city maintaining its current policy of keeping a “base number” of 35 total police officers.

Ensure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out LeaderHerald.com/Subscribe

Under Batchelor’s plan, the police will have 37 police officers after hiring the two new ones, but only until one or two of the current 35 police officers either retires or quits, at which time the new officers would then “slide into the base number of 35”, meaning the police would not then hire two additional officers again to keep the number at 37.

Weiterschan on Tuesday said there is no “minimum number” of police officers guaranteed as part of the city’s police union contract, but the ” base number of 35 officers” is a policy the city has maintained since adding 3 new police officers and 1 new detective in 2017, increasing the base number from 31 officers.

According to Weiterschan’s minutes from the Friday budget meeting, Batchelor’s two-officer-solution, tied to maintaining a 35-member-base, was approved by a 4-3 vote of the council, with Anadio, Rowback and Siarkowski voting against the motion.

On Monday and Tuesday, Siarkowski, Zarrelli, Batchelor, Simonds and Weiss all said Weiterschan’s minutes agree with their memory of how the vote went, and that Rowback’s statements to The Leader-Herald on Sunday about voting with the majority were incorrect.

Anadio, however, on Tuesday said she definitely voted against Bachelor’s two-officer-solution, tied to a 35-member-base, but she does not remember whether or not Siarkowski and Rowback voted against it.

Rowback did not return phone calls, text messages and social media messages seeking comment for this story.
Weiterschan said cutting DeSantis’ proposal to hire four new officers down to the two-officer-solution, tied to a 35-member-base, results in a $162,137 savings for the 2022 budget.

DeSantis on Sunday indicated he would not attempt to veto the budget changes made by the majority of the council.

POLICE COLLEGE TUITION REIMBURSEMENT POLICY

Another change made by the council on Friday included the removal of the police tuition reimbursement budget line of $39,034, which included $11,551.25 for college classes towards a mental health counseling program for Police Officer Nicole Buckley and $27,473 for Police Captain Mike Garavelli who is applying for a Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California.

Weiterschan said her meeting minutes indicate the council voted 6-1 to remove the tuition reimbursement, with Anadio voting to keep the money in the budget.

“It’s in the contract, OK? You can’t just take it out, because it’s in their contract,” Anadio said. “You have to negotiate something. There’s no sense in voting something like that, because it’s in the contract. That has to be negotiated. Contracts mean something.”

Weiterschan said Gloversville’s police contract does state the city will reimburse up to 75% of the cost of college courses and books related to “criminal justice, police science or a police science certificate issued by an educational institution”, provided the chief of police approves the course of study.

DeSantis on Sunday said he believes if a member of the police department union upon completing a course of study approved by Chief Anthony “Tony” Clay were to put forth a voucher to be reimbursed by the the city, the council would face the choice of either approving a budget amendment to pay the 75% reimbursement or the city would face the likelihood of a labor contract grievance process.

Ensure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out LeaderHerald.com/Subscribe

Weiterschan said the recent history of the police tuition reimbursement process shows that only Garavelli and Clay himself have received tuition reimbursement from the city since 2013 and only in 2013 did the council approve a “budget modification” of $1,776, approved late in the year to pay the tuition reimbursement for Garavelli. She said all of the rest of the times the benefit was paid-out it was also included in the regular budget process.

Weiterschan said these are the tuition reimbursements the council has approved in past years as part of the regular city budget process:

• 2014 — $18,675 police tuition reimbursement approved in the city budget, with Garavelli receiving $1,795 and Clay receiving three different disbursements equaling $12,491.12. Clay was a police captain at that time and a member of the police bargaining unit.

• 2015 — $15,600 adopted in the budget, with Clay receiving $8,694.26 and Garavelli receiving $5,282.25.

• 2016 — $786.75 adopted in budget, received by Garavelli, the last he has received from the reimbursement program.

• 2017 — no money budgeted for tuition reimbursement.

• 2018 — no money budgeted for tuition reimbursement.

• 2019 — $5,000 was budgeted but never used.

• 2020 — $2,500 was budgeted but never used.

Weiterschan said she believes Clay’s course of study involved cyber security and cyber related crime, because after he retired from the police department in 2015 he became the city’s Information Technology consultant at the police department. She said he returned to the police department in 2019 “as a captain” and then he became police chief when former Gloversville Police Chief Marc Porter retired.

Garavelli on Oct. 7 told the council he had received a Masters degree from Marist College in the area of government leadership studies, similar to the Ph.d. program at USC he has applied to attend, which city officials have estimated could cost approximately $90,000 for the city to reimburse 75% of the tuition over a three-year period.

Ensure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out LeaderHerald.com/Subscribe

By Jason Subik

Leave a Reply