Former Police chief unhappy about disbandment


By Carolyn Harmon - charmon@aimmedianetwork.com



NEW MADISON —Former New Madison Police Chief Chester Banks is unhappy about the way New Madison Council handled its recent decision to disband the department and enter into a contract with the Darke County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Banks, he feels that council rushed into the decision at the December 29 council meeting. He said he thinks the council wanted to get rid of the department and prevented the residents a chance to voice their opinions.

According to Mayor Lisa Garland, at the end of 2016, the police department had spent $89,900. Banks said he felt the $89,900 figure was misrepresented to council because it included other costs, such as wages, Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio (PERS) contributions and tax collection fees.

Banks submitted projected expenses for the department for 2017 of $67,909, with additional potential expenses in the amount of $31,130.

“These were spoken about as if they were hard numbers, and they were not,” he said about the projected expenses. “As an administrator I have to inform my council, these expenses could come. Council turned that all around and said these are going to be happening in 2017.”

Those potential expenses included fees for the Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (or MARCS) at $18,800, Cruiser installation at $1,000; User fees at $1,440, Spillman Dispatching /reporting at a $1,200 initial investment plus a $740 buy in-plus yearly increases; Spillman requires computer stands for cruiser’s $1,250 and a computer at $4,000, two-vehicle install and operability at $1,500 and Verizon air card at $1,200 per year estimate.

The proposed contract from the Sheriff’s Office to council was to have deputies patrol the village for 45 hours a week at an annual cost of $69,686.88.

“The decision was a financial decision, as Council reported at the January 10 meeting,” Mayor Garland said. “We were informed by the former Chief it would be difficult to operate the department in 2017 with the budget constraints, additional training requirements, and lack of officers to work. Council based the decision off of information given from the chief.”

At previous council meeting, council voted to reduce the hours of police officers to 21 per week.

According to the December 29 council meeting minutes, Councilman Jeremiah Doolin motioned to go into executive session to discuss contract litigation at 7:25 p.m; seconded by Nancy Vietor. The motion passed. Council returned from executive session at 8 p.m. Councilwoman Nancy Hill motioned to disband the current New Madison Police Department and accept the Sheriff Department’s contract for one year, effective January 1, 2017; seconded by Doolin. The motion passed.

“The mayor violated procedure,” Banks claimed. “She should have made discussion between the motion and the actual vote. There was no discussion.”

According to the minutes, before voting, Councilwoman Monyca Schlechty stated her decision was based on Chief Banks recommendations at the November 7 meeting, stating he could not properly run a police department on the proposed 2017 budget in the amount of $67,909 and based on emberthe research by the Safety and Security committee.

The minutes stated that Dec. 31, 2016 would be the final day for officers and Mayor Garland would collect inventory and keys. A police levy of $26,960 will not completely fund a police department without assistance from the general fund. The police department cannot apply for grants to assist with funding, according to the minutes.

“The discussion regarding this [disbanding the police department] was held during executive session,” said Mayor Lisa Garland.

Despite Chief Bank’s statement that he was unaware that this idea to disband was even in place, Mayor Garland said discussions were had.

“The discussions had started around July, and there was a lot of discussion about it,” Mayor Garland said. “The Chief knew at the end of July that the police department budget was being looked at, and the hours were reduced at that time. He was also aware that council was looking at other options.”

According to the meeting minutes from June 6 through December 29 the council discussed the police department in six different meetings. In the December 5 meeting minutes, Councilman Karl King, Jeremiah Doolin and Mayor Garland agreed to meet to discuss the police department and were to present the recommendation at the December 19 meeting.

Banks asserted that on December 29, when council started discussing the issue of closing the department, the clerk gave the mayor viable options and alternatives to disbanding the police department.

“The Mayor never brought them before council,” Banks claimed. “This should have been discussed openly. What are our options here? Do we have to lay people off to stay solvent and keep our own department?”

Garland said, “To my knowledge, the ideas from the clerk were sent to Council members and myself, to review. It was the chief’s responsibility to submit a budget, which he did. It was reviewed by Council, and discussed with him in an open meeting.”

According to Banks, Councilwoman Hill raised the question of increasing the police levy to provide the needed monies. Garland stated that the people of the village would not vote in any further levy, he said.

“I was asked how many mills it would take, I said 10 mills due to the low return of $7,702 [per year] that a mill would generate,” Banks explained. “At that point, Garland stated we would not do that and never addressed this point to the public and just moved on.”

“If I had been given the time to explain, we would have asked voters for a 5.5 mill addition to the current levy of 3.5 mill which generates $26,957 per year. The additional levy of 5.5 mill would generate $42,361 per year for a total of $69,318 per year,” he explained.

“My point to council was, if I was expected to run the New Madison Police on the levy alone, I could not do it, just because we would have run out of money, by March 17. I can’t run a department on $26,000 [per year]– no one can. You can’t meet your yearly expenses and expect to get wages out of that at the same time,” he said.

Mayor Garland rebuked Banks’ claim stating that “when asked how many mills it would take, the Chief responded with “at least 10”. Regardless of the amount/mills, Council had no intention of raising taxes for the residents of the Village.”

“The decision was a financial decision, as Council reported at the January 10 meeting,” Mayor Garland said. “We were informed by the former Chief it would be difficult to operate the department in 2017 with the budget constraints, additional training requirements, and lack of officers to work. Council based the decision off of information given from the chief.”

“Up to the point where the vote took place – the people should have had a voice,” Banks said.

According to Banks, he felt when the Village of Bradford disbanded its department they handled the situation correctly. The town council made notice of the topic and had three consecutive public meetings to give the residents a chance to have a voice in disbanding its police department, Banks explained.

In response, Mayor Garland said, “Residents are invited to attend council meetings, and the meeting dates are posted at the city building. The meetings are publicized at the city building and the library, as they have been for years.”

Since the time of the department’s disbanding, Banks claims that Mayor Garland, nor the Council, has publicly acknowledged the job the police officers have done for the village.

“Being in this job is a sacrifice to your family,” he explained. “You are out there at all hours of the night. When I took over as chief, I took an oath. If I saw something wrong I had to act on it to try to rectify it. That’s what I expected my officers to do and that’s what they did.

“If you broke the law in New Madison and it qualified you for a physical arrest, that’s what was going to happen,” Banks added. “Our crime rate went right into the basement. We did our job well and they got a good deal.”

“People at McDonald’s made more than me,” he said of his $11.72 hourly wage. “When you are in that setting, you are doing it because you like the town, not because of the money.”

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By Carolyn Harmon

charmon@aimmedianetwork.com

The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.

The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.