Two Rotterdam town board members got into a heated discussion about a $25,000 audit on the Rotterdam Town Police Department following a brief presentation by members of the law firm that conducted the audit and during questions raised by the police chief.
“Forgive my passion,” said Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone after closing the public comment portion of the meeting. “I’m over the misinformation campaign.”
Chief G. William Manikas was in the middle of asking questions to the town supervisor, to which board member Joseph Guidarelli was agreeing with, when Tommasone became frustrated with both the chief and Guidarelli—telling them they were being inappropriate during the meeting.
Board member Samantha Miller-Herrera had to interject between Tommasone and Guidarelli before Manikas could proceed with his comments.
The discussion comes after Tommasone sent a press release Feb. 18 stating the department didn’t have proper policies and procedures in place for the sex offender registry after an officer made a mistake registering an offender.
Barclay Damon attorney Gabe Nugent said they interviewed three officers in the department—Deputy Chief Michael Brown, Lt. William Male and Investigator Connor Lee. They did not interview Manikas.
Nugent said the audit found the police department has “proactive procedures in place” for compliance with the Sex Offender Registry Act and “very good personnel, who really actually exceed what is required under SORA.”
Nugent said the department has good collaborative efforts with various departments in regards to sex offenders on the registry.
“What we observed were the practices the town employed were in some ways dependent on the personnel responsible,” Nugent said.
The law firm recommended the town update the police department procedures so that all of the small details and practices taken for the registry are written down.
“What we have existing right now are standard operating procedures that are sort of very general on a higher level, but the act of day-to-day practices go much deeper,” Nugent said. They also recommended the police department adopt a quality assurance program to review the department policies and procedures.
Manikas disputed the supervisor’s claims about policy and procedures in his own release and said the department has had procedures in place since 2002 for the registry.
During the meeting Manikas wanted to direct some of his questions to Nugent, however before the presentation began, Tommasone said the attorneys from Barclay Damon—Mary Connelly and Nugent—would not take questions.
Manikas’ questions included how the audit could be conducted thoroughly without interviewing him.
Tommasone said he would not comment until after the board met in a client/attorney privilege conversation after the meeting.
Manikas said it appears from the bill the audit was finished on Nov. 11.
“Where has it been for the last three months?” he asked.
“Any other questions,” Tommasone said.
Guidarelli also said he wanted to hear why the audit is being released now.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” Tommasone said. “We’re here now during this meeting and we’re going to proceed.”
Guidarelli said he was privileged to receive updates regarding the audit, but that the final report was just released.
“This is about protecting the community and if something was done that was inappropriate then people need to be held accountable for whatever that is,” Tommasone said, raising his voice over Guidarelli.
Manikas also said he got a heavily redacted version of the audit and asked whether he would receive an unredacted version.
The recommendations will be given to the collaborative forum which is working on the town’s police department reform plan, Tommasone said.
The board closed the meeting about 8 p.m. after another heated exchange between Tommasone and Guidarelli and entered into a client/attorney privilege meeting.
“Any other questions?” Tommasone asked. “We’ll bring that up with our attorneys this evening.”
Town attorney Kate McGuirl said that client/attorney privilege meetings are not subject to Open Meeting laws regarding executive sessions and that the town was entering into the meeting to receive legal advice on the report the Barclay Damon had done.
Miller-Herrera said the board would discuss how much of the report would be released to the public.