Mayor, board, police work to see eye-to-eye

Gwen Chamberlain

After a few weeks of turmoil, the Penn Yan Village Board, Mayor Douglas Marchionda Jr. and members of the Penn Yan Police Benevolent’s Association are all on the same page, according to Marchionda.

Members of the village Public Safety Committee met with representatives from the PBA last week to resume labor/management meetings that Marchionda says they have been lax about keeping up over the past few months.

Now, he says, the meetings will continue on a monthly basis, until they all agree the interval can stretch out.

Marchionda says the meetings have nothing to do with labor negotiations, but one of the top issues on the PBA members’ minds is filling the investigator position as soon as possible.

Last week’s meeting included PBA president Michael Donovan, Vice President Jeff Stewart, officer Jeff Dawes and a union representative, said Marchionda.

Donovan could not be reached for comment.

But the village board and Marchionda have been waiting for the results of a study of the law enforcement and court systems in the village and the county to be complete before making a decision about the position.

He says the PBA members understand the village needs to be further along with the study.

“We wanted to try to make sure when we fill the position, that it’s done correctly and they understand that,” says Marchionda.

Village and county officials had hoped to get the study results by now, even though the deadline is March, but Marchionda says village representatives haven’t been interviewed yet.

He says the study process will include members of the police force.

The full time investigator position in the police force has been vacant since last summer, when Gene Mitchell was promoted to the Chief’s position. When that appointment was made, the village board agreed to pay Mitchell an annual $9,000 stipend to continue performing the investigator duties.

But the PBA filed a grievance over that action because the investigator position is one that PBA members could be promoted into.

After discussing the grievance in an executive session in December, the village board voted to discontinue the stipend payments to Mitchell.

Earlier this month, Mitchell filed an article 78 lawsuit in Yates County Court against the village in response to the board’s decision to discontinue the payments. An article 78 proceeding challenges an action by a government agency.

Although Mitchell’s documents were filed in the county clerk’s office several days ago, where they are part of the public record, village officials did not receive notification of the lawsuit until 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, says Marchionda.

He says he learned of the case through media reports last week. He declined to comment on the suit, except to say, “The village will deal with it as we deal with all article 78s. It’s our duty to defend them.”

Mitchell, who has been employed by the department for more than 30 years, says the reduction in pay could cost him $5,000 in annual retirement benefits because the chief’s pay is less than what he earned as an investigator.

Before accepting the chief’s position, Mitchell was earning approximately $10,000

more as the investigator because he was eligible for overtime.

As chief, Mitchell is not a member of the PBA. He says he requested two executive sessions with the village board to discuss its decision to discontinue the stipend, but Marchionda refused his requests.