Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner made a point last week of blocking an award to a city police officer found liable in a civil suit against the city. She said award winners need to be a held to a high standard. But, as YNN's Bill Carey reports, that didn't stop Miner from handing out an award to one city employee, who is on probation and has a history of felony arrests. >/I>
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- "We have been given an opportunity, for a short period of time, to prove to this community that we are indeed leaders and we understand the responsibility that goes along with occupying the offices that we have," Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said on Thursday.
It was a difficult decision, the mayor said. She had blocked an award for a city police officer for his 18 months of undercover work aimed at drug trafficking. The reason? The officer was found liable for damages in a civil suit brought by a drug suspect involving a case in 2001. The officer in question had a clean record both before and after the incident.
Fellow police boycotted the awards ceremony in protest, but Miner stood firm.
"They understand that part of the responsibility of being leaders is engaging in conduct that is appropriate for your office and appropriate for wearing the badge," Miner said.
The mayor went ahead with awards to city firefighters. Among them, Fire Lieutenant Kelvin Chambers. There were no questions raised by City Hall over his qualifications for an award, despite the fact that at least three times in the past 11 years he'd been arrested on felony charges of criminal contempt in the first degree, along with harassment.
The cases were handled by a special victims bureau at the Onondaga County District Attorney's office, indicating a domestic dispute had been involved.
In at least two of the cases, in 2006 and 2008, Chambers was found guilty on a lesser charge of criminal contempt in the second degree. That's a class A misdemeanor. In both cases, he was given a conditional discharge.
Chambers remains on probation from the latest case in 2008.
Inquiries were made to the mayor's office. Were they aware of those felony cases? Was there a double standard in play? A spokesperson for the mayor said there would be no comment.
A source close to the mayor has now weighed in, telling YNN that Miner had no prior knowledge of Chambers' arrest record. They also claim the award he received was a departmental citation, not an award reviewed by the mayor. Fire Chief Mark McLees has been unavailable for comment.