Three Niskayuna town officials tried to keep former interim police chief Fran Wall in her job even after a human resource consultant for the town said she should be terminated from her job following a town investigation into complaints about her behavior.
Wall was investigated by the town’s Hazard Reduction Team for allegedly threatening town Comptroller Ismat Alam and harassing her over eight separate incidents.
Wall has denied the allegations.
The consultant made its recommendation to fire Wall based on the Hazard Reduction Team’s findings, not on an independent investigation, according to Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed. The town was expected to discuss and possibly vote on how to reprimand Wall in June.
However, before that happened, Wall submitted her resignation. While her May 17 resignation letter did not indicate her reason for resigning, she later told police department employees it was because of a lack of support from the town.
On the same day Wall sent in her resignation letter, town board member Denise Murphy McGraw texted Wall asking to talk to her as soon as possible, according to a picture of the text provided by Wall’s attorney Paul Davenport.
Davenport said McGraw and Syed both asked Wall to stay on the force.
“She was specifically told ‘we need your leadership and what can we do to keep you?,’” Davenport said Friday.
Town Attorney Paul Briggs, a member of the team that investigated Wall, was on the phone call as well, Syed said. The Hazard Reduction Team included substitute members from the town board, Bill McPartlon and John Della Ratta, because the event under investigation was witnessed by the supervisor, who usually would serve on that team, and the town comptroller, another team member, was the complainant, Syed said.
The town requested an employment agreement with Wall during the phone conversation, which was provided on May 28, Davenport said.
The agreement would have allowed Wall to be chief of the department for three years, with successive one-year terms to follow unless the agreement was terminated.
The agreement also included:
- Reinstating and filling the lieutenant position
- Appointing a deputy chief
- Hiring a community police officer and a minimum of two other officers
- Hiring a confidential secretary for Wall
- Appointing a new liaison between the town board and police department
- Discontinuing any investigation involving Wall and considering said investigation to be unfounded
- Requesting that an outside human resources contractor immediately handle a complaint initially made by Wall on Dec. 17
- Addressing any of Wall’s complaints immediately
Nothing ever came of the agreement.
“They never responded to it whatsoever,” Davenport said.
Syed said she did not know why the town did not move forward with the agreement and referred the question to Briggs.
Briggs would not comment.
“These are confidential employee personnel matters which are not discussed publicly,” he said in an email.
Davenport said none of the investigation made sense.
A month before Alam made a formal complaint against Wall – claiming Wall threatened to kill her over the hiring of firm to conduct a police audit – Wall had complained about Alam in a Dec. 17 email to Syed and McPartlon.
In the email, Wall asks for a third party to be present whenever she needed to interact with Alam.
“I shall not have direct singular contact with or meet in person with Town Comptroller Ismat Alam without having a third party present for verification of verbal communication content or other exchange of information,” Wall said in the email. “Equally, I shall not communicate by remote electronic means (telephone, etc.) with Town Comptroller Ismat Alam without having such communication recorded for content and/or information verification.”
Wall said in the email she felt the need to have a third party witness because Alam was making “damning accusations” against her.
“I don’t lie,” Wall said. “And, I certainly cannot tolerate being lied to, especially in a professional work environment. I remain suspect of anyone who does this with regularity.”
Syed said the issue was handled internally and she believes the email was sent along to the human resource consultant. However, she said Wall’s email was not considered a complaint because it had not gone through the formal complaint process by the town.
Alam claimed that on November 5, 2020, after a meeting at which the town agreed to hire CNA to conduct a police audit in connection with the state’s police reform mandates, Wall allegedly said “If CNA comes after my police officers then I will kill you.” Alam also alleged Wall behaved inappropriately in seven other instances between November 12, 2020 and December 22, 2020. The allegations were corroborated by Alam’s assistant. Syed, who is also a witness to that incident, said she did not hear Wall make those statements.
Alam also indicated she feared for her and her family’s safety and requested protection for her family.
Alam did not report the incident to the police department, Syed said, and there was no protection provided to her. The town, after consulting with Briggs and the human resource consultant, also didn’t report the incident to the police.
Davenport also said he believes Briggs spoke with Wall in February about the alleged November incident, but that was it. Davenport said he and Wall weren’t aware of any official investigation.
“Absolutely she should have been involved in it,” Davenport said.