It used to be all hugs when Newark Village Mayor Pete Blandino and Newark Police Chief Dave Christer got together – not so much anymore. Although the Mayor said everything is on a solid footing, Wayne County CSEA Union President Paul Peters said things began to fall apart several months ago between the police and the Mayor.
The “fall-out” resulted in the Mayor stating that the Village Board’s recent move to demote 26 year veteran officer Captain Mark Thoms, back to the rank of sergeant was to “Put another officer back on the streets” and not just a financial move in light of the new budget. The move would then demote Sergeant Mike Patton back to a patrolman, reducing his pay by 15%.
Peters said the real rift began when, after a new contract with the officers was signed, Blandino wanted the police to accept a new health care program. Several of the officers listened to the new plan that was presented and declined. Comments were reportedly made by the Mayor to the officers that further inflamed the situation.
As the number two man behind Chief Christler, Captain Thoms was responsible for many of the grants and day-to-day operations. According to Peters, the Newark Department has used the grant monies Thoms acquired to pay for replacement police vehicles for the past several years.
Chief Christler said the move by Blandino and the Board demotes the only Black officer in the County in a Village with a high demographics of people of color. “He is an excellent liaison,” said the Chief.
The Mayor has also suggested, according to the Union and several officers willing to speak, to reduce overtime costs by bringing in part-timers, something that has never been done in the force.
“This has caused a decline in morale,” said Peters. “He (the Mayor) has acted like a juvenile not getting his own way.” Peters said one office told him that the Mayor had even threatened to shut down the police after 2 a.m. and let the Sheriff’s Department pick up the shift. “I told the Mayor it didn’t have to be like this.
At the Tuesday (4/16) Newark Village Board meeting, Newark Mayor Peter Blandino stated that he was well aware of a half-page ad appearing in the Times of Wayne County, April 14th edition highlighting a “breakup” of the Newark Police Dept. The ad, placed by the CSEA Union representing the Newark Police, urged Newark residents to attend this village board meeting and hear plans to “demote and eliminate” Newark village police officers, that Newark citizens might experience less police protection and emergency response capabilities as well as demoralizing its police officers.
Mayor Blandino and all village trustees were present at the meeting as well as Newark Police Chief David Christler and several uniformed Newark police officers.
At the meeting Peters said “I think that these officers deserve a hell of a lot better than what they’ve got from you and the village in the last 4 months. These guys go out there every night and put their lives on the line to protect the people who live in this community and they deserve better than what they got.
Newark resident, Jim Hurley, a retired NYS police officer, past Wayne County sheriff and past NYS assemblyman, told the board that he thought they were demoralizing the police department, that they are imposing a promotional ceiling on the officers in the organization…
Todd Howard recollected that the “It seems as though we’re back to the same spot we were four years ago. There was dirty underhanded dealings that was done by the board then and were in the same spot now.” Howard criticized the board for continuing to demoralize the police and asked what the board is possibly gaining through their actions.
Mayor Blandino closed this issue saying: “…on behalf of the board, the one thing we will have in this village is 100% quality police services, quality police responses, and a quality of life that’s second to none. This board will not vary from that. It’s our police department’s responsibility to provide those services under the leadership of Chief Christler…..”.
Following the meeting, Mayor Blandino noted that at the March 19 village board meeting, the board voted to eliminate the Captain’s position, a non-union, administrative position – held by Capt. Mark Thoms. Thoms would then become a Sergeant and the current Sergeant, Michael Patton, would be assigned as patrolman. The Mayor stressed that the position of Captain was eliminated because the position was mainly administrative. The demotions become effective June 1. Newark’s Police Department’s budget for the current fiscal year is $2,411,922 or about 40.7% of the total village budget. The police department currently has 10 patrolmen, 4 Sergeants, 2 investigators and 1 clerk serving and protecting the Village’s 9,100 residents.