Logs list 53 city car trips by police chief

Driving logs kept last year by city Police Chief John Harzinski show he made 53 trips outside Glover
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Driving logs kept last year by city Police Chief John Harzinski show he made 53 trips outside Gloversville using a municipal car, often to attend functions of outside organizations.

Though a city vehicle policy does not clarify whether department heads have discretionary authority to take vehicles, court papers the city filed this week state that there is an allegation Harzinski improperly used a city vehicle. It is one of a number of allegations being investigated by a consultant hired by the city, attorney David Grandeau, the documents state.

The city filed the court papers in response to Harzinski’s lawsuit seeking reinstatement to full-time duty. Mayor Tim Hughes placed Harzinski on paid administrative leave Dec. 6, alleging insubordination.

Hughes has declined to explain what occurred to warrant the suspension, but Harzinski and his lawyer, John Poklemba, are arguing in state Supreme Court that the city is obligated under civil service law to specify charges and provide Harzinski a hearing.

Hughes declined again Friday to comment on the driving logs or the other allegations Hughes laid out in an affidavit filed in Supreme Court. “They are what they are,” he said recently of the driving logs. Officials said the logs are among the materials being examined by Grandeau.

The logs were obtained by The Daily Gazette through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Poklemba has not returned repeated phone calls seeking comment on various aspects of the case. That was the case again Friday.

Some of the trips clearly specify city business, such as an April 27 mission to Colonie to research the department’s acquisition of downtown surveillance cameras.

City sources said Harzinski used a city car, sometimes accompanied by another officer, to attend the functions of outside organizations.

Harzinski is vice president of the state Association of Chiefs of Police and also an officer of the Northeast Chiefs of Police organization.

He is also active in the Parents Who Host Lose the Most movement and was recently named state chairman of Mothers Against Driving Drunk.

The driving logs, charting mileage to such places as Schenectady, Colonie, Lake George, Lake Placid and Saratoga Springs as well as to a four-day police chiefs’ convention in Alexandria Bay, are written in longhand and in at least 15 instances list the destination as a function of one of the professional associations.

A number of other trips were taken for Parents Who Host meetings.

A 1995 city vehicle policy adopted by the Common Council requires vehicles to be used solely for city business and demands a daily use log be kept for each vehicle. Department heads must file a request form before taking a vehicle, the policy states.

That year, in response to the policy, then Chief William Lair wrote to Mayor Frank DeSantis explaining his need to have a city vehicle while off duty and his use of it for travel to and from meetings, seminars, conferences, dinners, training sessions, etc. related to keeping current as chief of the department.

The city’s court papers discuss other allegations being investigated by Grandeau including improper expenditure of city funds, the improper use of city personnel for personal business and similar allegations.

Grandeau began work in early January and estimated then he would complete his review in 45 days. The city is paying him $8,000.

Meanwhile, Poklemba has until Tuesday to respond to the city’s court papers in anticipation of a decision by Judge Richard T. Aulisi who conducted a hearing Jan. 11.

Categories: Schenectady County

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