Skip to main content

Legislature committee backs school resource officer resolution

September 7, 2018 10:06 pm

CATSKILL — The Greene County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee voted 5-2 to approve a resolution Wednesday to help fund school resource officers in three Greene County school districts.

The resolution rebounded from its defeat last month when lawmakers invoked a rarely-used rule.

Legislators Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, and Kevin Lennon, D-Catskill, were absent; absences are recorded as no votes. That changed the vote from 4-2 in favor to a 4-4 deadlock. Using the weighted vote as a tiebreaker defeated the resolution.

Lennon brought the resolution forward Wednesday. Only legislators who voted against a resolution can bring it back up for another vote.

Legislators William Lawrence, R-Cairo; Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie; Pat Linger, R-New Baltimore; Aidan O’Connor Jr., D-Durham; and Legislature Chairman Kevin Lewis, R-Greenville, voted for the resolution. Lori Torgersen, D-Windham, and Kevin Lennon voted against it.

The resolution calls for four officers from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to be placed in the Cairo-Durham, Windham-Ashland-Jewett and Greenville central school districts for a three-year term expiring June 30, 2021, with each paying $55,000 for the officers. The county would contribute $31,000 as its share. Cairo-Durham would have two officers; WAJ and Greenville would have one each.

Before passing the resolution, Kevin Lennon suggested a second meeting should be held with the superintendents of the three school districts because not all legislators were present for a prior meeting.

“We haven’t vetted everything as we should, as legislators,” he said.

The school districts should have secured their own officers as the Catskill Central School District did when officials decided in May to hire four retired police officers as resource officers, Kevin Lennon said.

“Why should the whole complete county school district pay for three schools because they don’t have the initiative to be proactive to do something themselves?” he said.

The program is important, but Torgersen agreed with Kevin Lennon that another meeting should be held before a vote is taken on the resolution, she said.

“I don’t think forcing through a resolution that maybe isn’t the best plan that everybody could agree on is the solution,” she said. “Can we not agree to prioritize this and revisit it at our next meeting?”

Adjustments could be made to the program in the future, but Harry Lennon wanted to revisit the resolution because he’s received numerous phone calls from constituents since the vote was defeated last month.

“They can’t believe this happened at this legislature last month, so I am here to reverse that,” Harry Lennon said.

It was gratifying to bring the resolution forward again and get the support of the Public Safety Committee, he said.

“My absence automatically caused a no vote which is totally different than the way I feel about this program,” he said. “I am 100 percent in support of it.”

The program shouldn’t have been implemented without the legislators voting on it first, Kevin Lennon said.

“That’s not the process and procedure that we should be doing in Greene County,” he said. “We need to really look back at what we’re actually doing as legislators.” To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.

Kevin Lennon is making very strong points as when this issue held an open hearing it was originally turned down for sound reasoning- rather that saddle the schools with subsidizing a deputy - legislators felt that leaving discretion to the school boards to create a school officer position they would vet and hire within their own budgets would be more responsible and appropriate to the task and avoid the concerns of introducing Sheriffs directly into the schools except at the occasional special speakers.

Moreover this whole proposal smacks of expanding Sheriff Seeley's turf and budget at the expense of self-rule, protecting our schools from becoming jail-like with guards, and respecting their autonomy.

The same cadre of legislators that continually whine for "more jails, bigger jails and newer jails" are the same ones who are behind this wasteful resolution: Legislators William Lawrence, R-Cairo; Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie; Pat Linger, R-New Baltimore; and Legislature Chairman Kevin Lewis, R-Greenville.