The Niskayuna Police Benevolent Association does not support current Niskayuna Police Department Deputy Chief Mike Stevens becoming the next police chief, according to the head of the union.
PBA President Anthony Comanzo said Monday that in December 2020 the association had a 17-1 vote of no confidence for Stevens, following allegations Stevens was the driving force of a hostile work environment in the department.
The town has been investigating Stevens since the summer of 2020, but has never confirmed why the investigation is being conducted.
Stevens’ lawyer, Michael McDermott of the O’Connell and Aronowitz law firm in Albany, also wouldn’t confirm what the investigation is looking into.
Stevens is set to have a hearing Sept. 15 related to the investigation — just one day after the town’s deadline to name its next police chief.
Comanzo said the association gave the town a letter outlining its vote of no confidence. That letter has not been made public.
“As a union we agreed it would stay between the union and the town,” Comanzo said.
But with knowledge of the letter getting out Comanzo said he is bringing a vote to the union at its next meeting in about a week to determine whether they should make the letter public.
Comanzo said the union does not represent Stevens in the investigation because he is part of police administration.
However, Comanzo said members of the union are both witnesses and victims of Stevens’ alleged actions.
McDermott said Stevens is contemplating having the hearing in front of the public.
“We are leaning in that direction,” McDermott said. “Again, a lot of it has to do with what the COVID situation is like and we’ll make a decision as we get closer.”
McDermott also said “there’s a strong likelihood” he may call witnesses for Stevens’ defense.
“It all depends on what witnesses the town decides to call, which they haven’t clarified yet,” McDermott said.
Comanzo couldn’t say what the union would do if Stevens became the next chief of the department.
“Ultimately the decision is the town’s,” Comanzo said.
All of this comes after Fran Wall retired as interim chief, citing issues with the town’s lack of support for changes in the department, including staffing levels. Before Wall’s departure Officer Carlton Kuhlmeier left in March citing an unhealthy work environment.
Stevens has been placed in charge of overseeing the day-to-day operations until another chief can be named. Stevens, Sgt. Todd Frenyea and Sgt. Jordan Kochan are in the running for the chief’s position.
Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed could not be reached for comment.