Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick spoke before the Common Council yesterday evening at a finance committee meeting and argued against a hiring freeze proposed by 3rd Ward Alderman Ron Barone. Culick said that he would need to replace one retiring officer this month and possibly two more later in August.
Culick pointed out that the department was already down by three positions since he took office in 2011, which were cut due to not receiving expected federal stimulus money. He went on to say that with less officers, overtime costs could soar.
“The job’s got to be covered,” said Culick, “there’s some essential services in this city, there’s some non-essential services. This police job has to be done. People call, we have to respond. We’re obligated by a liability policy in the city. We’re going to get sued if we don’t show up to certain calls.”
“I don’t see an impact,” said Barone, explaining that any positions that needed to be filled before July would be “rushed through” and that he would call a special session in the event any further positions needed to be filled. “We’ll fill that position,” said Barone.
After further debate, Barone said he would amend the resolution to exempt the police department.
Later, during the public comments portion of the common council meeting, Chief Richard Liberti, who was not present during the committee meeting, said upon learning of the police department exemption, “Based on what I just heard, it makes it sound as if the resolution on tonight’s agenda is strictly for the fire department, I find that disconcerting.”
Barone then said he would table the resolution in order to make further amendments.
During the committee meeting, Barone explained, “The reason I’d like to see this take effect – if any department head has to hire somebody, it has to come back to this council also. We’re just hiring and hiring and hiring, and nobody’s looking at it.”
Mayor Ann Thane asked Barone if he had talked to department heads about the impact a hiring freeze would have. Barone replied that he had not.
Thane went on to ask, “I was wondering, what hiring and hiring and hiring you are referring to?”
“Any hiring, any new hiring,” replied Barone.
“You seem to have some specifics in mind. Where is all the hiring going on is what I want to know?”
“There’s been a lot of hiring…”
“Where, outside of the budget?”
“Yes outside of the budget.”
“Well, we’ll take a look at it.”
Barone later clarified that he wanted department heads to come to the common council for approval for any new hire, even if it was to replace an existing employee with a position that was already budgeted for.
5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggerio explained his view by saying, “I think all we’re asking here as a council, is if in fact a new hire takes place, the council would really like to know beforehand…the reason for that new hire. As it stands now, we aren’t aware here of new hires. All we’re asking is to be informed of what the department’s intentions are with that new hire.”
Mayor Ann Thane replied,“You had budgeted for any position that is filled. You did. The council. So whatever new hire that comes in has already been considered by the council in the budget.”