GENEVA — Look no further than Thursday’s special meeting of City Council to understand the difficulty and complexity of creating a Police Accountability Board.
Toward the tail end of the meeting, Council conducted three votes related to wording of a local law creating the city’s first PAB, a body that would review and investigate citizen complaints about Geneva Police Department officer behavior and make recommendations to the police chief about discipline. The police chief would make the final decision, and the department would initiate its own investigation of a complaint.
Thursday’s first vote was to amend the wording of the drafted legislation to remove the words “endeavor to” have no more than one current or former Geneva police officer, law enforcement member of another department, or their family members on the nine-person PAB. With little debate, that was approved 9-0.
Later, the issue arose again.
Ward 6 Councilor John Pruett said he had changed his mind and wanted to have no police officers, past or present, or their family members on the PAB. That sparked considerable debate, often contentious, with Ward 5 Councilor Laura Salamendra strongly supporting Pruett’s stance by citing a need for independence, and At-Large Councilor Frank Gaglianese III countering by saying that an officer’s perspective on the PAB could be useful.
“It would be like trying to fix your car without a mechanic,” Gaglianese said.
Pruett tried to rescind his motion, saying it was causing too much controversy.
“Maybe we need to do more homework,” he said.
However, debate continued. Ward 3 Councilor Jan Regan made a motion to table Pruett’s measure; that was defeated by 5-2 vote. Pruett and Ward 4 Councilor Ken Camera abstained.
Mayor Steve Valentino then called for a vote on Pruett’s amendment prohibiting police membership on the PAB. It was approved by a 5-4 vote. Pruett, Regan, Camera, Salamendra and Ward 1 Councilor Tom Burrall voted yes, while Gaglianese, Valentino, Ward 2 Councilor Bill Pealer and At-Large Councilor Anthony Noone were opposed.
However, when the original motion, as amended, was voted on, it was defeated by a 5-4 vote. Burrall switched his vote.
After the 2-hour, 21-minute session ended, it was agreed the entire local law would be scrutinized by Council members again and any amendments could be made at a 6 p.m. Nov. 30 meeting.