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Officials push to limit vacancies on Schenectady Civilian Police Review Board

Sunday, December 15, 2013
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— The City Council might change the Civilian Police Review Board to fix the long-standing problem of vacant seats, using a proposal floated by the Rev. Philip Grigsby.

Grigsby wants the council to take action when other agencies don’t appoint members to the review board. If they don’t, he said, the council could appoint members instead.

It will be discussed at this evening’s council committees meeting, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

“We can’t let this go the way it is. The board doesn’t have a quorum most of the time,” said Councilman Vince Riggi.

The review board has been plagued with quorum problems for years. The board has rarely had a full complement of members, so when there are vacancies, the board can’t meet if even one person is absent.

On many occasions, board members have gathered, only to find they can’t legally start their meeting because of absences. Then they’ve called their colleagues, begging other members to show up so that they could get to work.

The board is supposed to review the Police Department’s investigation of complaints. Because of that mission, members are recommended by various agencies in the city, ranging from the NAACP to the League of Women Voters, rather than being chosen by the city government.

But some agencies have closed down, and others have struggled at times to come up with a representative. The City Council has tackled the quorum issue several times, most recently by reducing the total number of agencies that make recommendations.

But the problem persists.

Grigsby, executive director of Schenectady Inner City Ministry and a vocal advocate for the board, said the council should change the legislation so that it has the power to appoint members if agencies don’t recommend anyone.

He said members should notify the council, the mayor and their recommending agency when they want to leave. At that point, he said, agencies would have a deadline to find someone new.

“Then, if they don’t, the mayor and the City Council appoints,” he said. “They could move ahead.”

He proposed 60 or 90 days, which he said would give any agency enough time to find a replacement member.

Currently, the NAACP and the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority have not recommended anyone to their seats on the board. The council has also not appointed a member to their seat, and the mayor’s appointee, John Mootooveren, is about to resign so that he can take a seat on the council. Given that situation, the council had already planned to vote on one appointment at their next meeting.

Council members have, in the past, spent months trying to get agencies to make a decision on a replacement member. But as soon as one vacant seat is filled, someone else leaves.

Grigsby said it’s clear a new solution is needed.

“The city as a whole needs a mechanism to let the group function,” he said. “It’s not working. Let’s try something different.”

Several council members said they liked the idea.

“I think it’s definitely something the council should consider,” said Councilwoman Marion Porterfield.

Council President Margaret King agreed, saying that she would propose a 60-day deadline.

“I could probably be talked into 30 days,” she added.

Councilwoman Denise Brucker said it could finally solve the long-standing problem.

“This would streamline it,” she said. “Unfortunately, sometimes nonprofit agencies come and go.”

Several members noted that the NAACP is no longer active in the city. That seat, they said, must be filled in some other way — such as through a council appointment.

But Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said other nonprofit agencies should make the decision instead. She suggested possibly replacing the NAACP with another entity, and calling the Municipal Housing Authority to urge it to make a recommendation for its seat.

“I think with this particular board, community representation is really important, and not necessarily people that are hand-picked by the council,” she said. “We want a broad representation of our community as a whole.”

 
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comments

December 16, 2013
8:37 a.m.
cidbil says...

What's the point? If nobody wants to be part of the Board, then why have it? Seems to me a lot of wasted energy. Has this Board ever accomplished anything?

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