By JIM KEVLIN : COOPERSTOWN
They answered the second question first, and it became clear that Police Chief Diana Nicols’ retirement application has been approved, and she will soon be leaving the helm of the village Police Department.
What is about to happen surfaced when the village trustees Wednesday, April 13, began to debate how much to budget for police chief in the 2011-12 budget under consideration.
If the position were filled by an interim chief from the ranks, how much would that cost the village? In the course of filling the position, how much of the chief’s salary and benefits, a $97,000 per year cost, might be saved?
The chief was present and participated in the discussion. While details were sketchy, it appears Nicols has accepted a position in academe.
Village Attorney Martin H. Tillapaugh declined to discuss the matter, but said he expects the Village Board will be making a related decision at its monthly meeting on the 25th.
Mayor Joe Booan was out of town on vacation, and unavailable to discuss the matter, and the chief didn’t return phone calls.
Conceivably, the state Retirement Board decision – Nicols had been seeking to retire on disability for two years, since an ACL injury during job-related martial arts training – will clear the slate on a troubled picture in recent months.
The chief had been hired in 2005 – she had been an Oneonta patrolman for more than a decade – under the administration of former mayor Carol B. Waller, and tilted at various points with Waller’s successor, Mayor Booan.
The climactic disagreement came last summer, when Nicols clashed with Jane Forbes Clark, National Baseball Hall of Fame president, about whether village or state police should lead the Induction Weekend parade. Booan had told the chief to drop the matter.
Charged with insubordination, Nicols agreed to a one-week suspension, but then sued the Village of Cooperstown and Mayor Booan personally, arguing that her First Amendment rights had been impinged upon.
Since the Village Board supported Nicols’ retirement application this time, it might be expected that she will now drop her suit.
As the trustees debated the matter, the job description for the job – it doesn’t include filling actual shifts, although past chiefs, and Nicols before she was injured, have done so – was pinpointed.
“The job description, as written, does not warrant a full-time chief of police,” Booan said. The trustees appeared to agree it would be rewritten for Nicols’ successor.