POTSDAM - The Potsdam Village Board has voted unanimously to recommend the demotion of Michael Ames in response to controversy surrounding the police sergeants failure to report a hit-and-run accident.
The village board met behind closed doors in executive session for less than 15 minutes to discuss Mr. Ames at Mondays village board meeting on Monday. Upon returning, the board voted to recommended the villages police chief demote the sergeant back a patrolman post.
His pay would be reduced to a patrolmans grade, but he would continue to work for the police department.
We felt that this was a serious incident of behavior unbecoming an officer, Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis said.
Mr. Ames backed into a car and drove away without reporting it on Halloween 2010. He did not report the incident to his superiors until March 2012.
Mr. Yurgartis had called for an investigation of the police departments handling of the situation. Mr. Ames was disciplined internally, according to Police Chief Kevin E. Bates. The mayor and village board were unaware of the incident until May when they received a complaint about the incident.
Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to begin the process of filling a vacant position in the police department while promoting another officer to the rank of sergeant.
I think we as a community need to weigh the cost of a police force compared to the benefits we receive, Mr. Yurgartis said. The board unanimously agreed to request a list of eligible potential police officers from the St. Lawrence County personnel office.
The board had previously tabled the decision to hire a new officer during a meeting on May 31, citing the controversy surrounding Mr. Ames as a distraction to the process.
The decision to begin the search for an existing officer to promote to the rank of sergeant drew more debate. Some board members worried that the promotion would lead to less manpower patrolling the village.
Trustee Eleanor F. Hopke made a motion to table the decision to allow for more time for deliberation, but the motion was not seconded.
The vote passed 3-2, with Trustee Stephen J. Warr joining Ms. Hopke in voting against the measure.
I just wanted more time to make a decision, Ms. Hopke said after voting against the resolution.
Tempers flared during the meeting in response to comments made by Trustee Ruth F. Garner.
Ms. Garner repeatedly argued that the police department was short-staffed and more needed to be done to fill vacant positions.
After Mr. Yugartis tried to move to a new subject, Ms. Garner fired back.
I am not one of your students, she said.
This prompted a member of the public in attendance to call Ms. Garner rude.
I am rude. You have to be rude to get anything done in this position, Ms. Garner replied.