Village Board Police Hiring Questioned by Future Trustee

Also: Cold Spring to get better access to reservoirs

The hiring of a new Cold Spring Police Department officer touched off a debate at the Tuesday (Sept. 8) meeting of the Cold Spring Village Board. 

The board approved hiring officer Scott Lombardo, a 22-year veteran who recently retired as a sergeant with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. Lombardo was interviewed by the board in an executive session held earlier that day. 

During the public comment period, village resident Heidi Bender asked why the hire was made without public input. Bender is running unopposed for a seat on the Village Board and will begin serving as a trustee in January. 

She said that as part of the New York State-mandated review of municipal police departments, “in a lot of places, including Beacon, communities are embracing having citizens involved in these kinds of things.”  

She then asked, “Why was the interview done in private?”

“I don’t know why a larger group of people would be needed,” Mayor Dave Merandy responded.  “What input would they have in looking at someone’s resume?”

Bender then referred to the hiring of officer Scott Morris late last year. Morris resigned six months later after residents demanded he be fired because he was the supervisor at the scene of a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in New York City in 2012.  

“Is there something to be learned [from the hiring of Morris] when people found out after the fact?” Bender asked.  “As elected officials, can we be more inclusive of the community we’re representing?”

Trustee Lynn Miller commented that including the public in the hiring process would set a bad precedent. “The Labor Board is very protective of people in the hiring and interview process,” she said. “There is an assumption of privacy when interviewing and we’re elected to do that work.” 

Miller added that Lombardo will be on probation for 40 months. “If there’s a problem [with him] later it can be brought up later,” she said. 

Bender persisted in her argument for more public involvement. “A transparent process can avoid a lot of these misunderstandings and a lot of the reactions we saw” in the Morris case, she said. “I just don’t see why there’s a threat [by] being inclusive in the process.” 

“I don’t feel it’s a threat at all,” Merandy replied. “I just don’t see how involving more and more people, everyone with their own opinion, will make a better process and a better hire.”

Bender then asked when public input will be sought as part of the review of Police Department policies. 

Merandy said he has not yet read a document recently provided by Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke, which he said can serve “as a starting point” for the development of police policies. 

“As soon as we have that base to work from, we will have a public meeting and discuss what we feel is a decent policy,” Merandy said. 

In other business…

Scenic Hudson will transfer ownership of a small property adjacent to the village reservoirs to the Village of Cold Spring. The parcel will help provide access for maintenance of the reservoir dams.  The village will pay about $2,700 for survey and legal costs associated with the transfer.  

The village will seek the advice of Oneonta attorney David Mertzig in an attempt to improve the pace of negotiations with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. 

The village needs to tap into DEP’s Catskill Aqueduct before making repairs to the village reservoir dams. Mertzig has assisted other municipalities that have experienced difficulties in dealing with DEP. Cold Spring’s negotiations with the agency have been ongoing for more than a decade. 

2 thoughts on “Village Board Police Hiring Questioned by Future Trustee

  1. Transparency is good. Why shouldn’t the public know the background of someone in whom they need to place their trust, someone hired to protect them, and someone who is carrying a badge and a gun? The buck stops here and now in 2020!

  2. The fact that our mayor has no concern for the actual citizens who put him in this position of power is incredibly disappointing.