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Potsdam mayor calls for police department investigation

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POTSDAM- Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis is calling for an independent investigation of the Potsdam Police Department after discovering an officer failed to report a property damage accident he was involved in for nearly 18 months.

Mr. Yurgartis said he received a complaint from Potsdam resident Gerald Jenks Jr. on Friday about an incident which took place in the fall of 2010. Sgt Michael Ames was at a party held by Mr. Jenks, backed into another car as he was leaving and failed to report it, Mr. Yurgartis said.

Mr. Ames filed a report earlier this spring in which he admitted to the accident after he was confronted with the issue, Mr. Yurgartis said.

“The most troubling part to me is that the officer did have a property damage accident, failed to report it and eventually felt compelled to report it,” Mr. Yurgartis said. “I was very disappointed the police department tried to handle this very serious issue internally without notifying the village administrator or the mayor.”

“There was no public reporting of this,” he said.

Mr. Yurgartis said he did not yet know why the department handled the situation the way it did. Mr. Jenks’ complaint on Friday was the first he was hearing of the incident. He is calling for an investigation because he feels the department handled the situation inappropriately.

“I’ve asked for an explanation and it’s not clear to me,” he said.

Mr. Yurgartis pointed out the village police arrested Mr. Jenks in February. Police charged him driving while intoxicated and speeding 64 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone on Leroy Street. At the time, Mr. Jenks refused to take a Breathalyzer test.

Mr. Ames was the sergeant on duty the night of his arrest, Mr. Yurgartis said. Since his arrest, Mr. Jenks allegedly sent threatening messages to the police department, Mr. Yurgartis said.

“It’s a mess,” Mr. Yurgartis said. “We have someone who’s very unhappy with the police department making accusations.”

Mr. Jenks said his complaint was not related to the DWI charge.

“It’s not really about me,” he said.

Mr. Jenks said he used to be friends with Mr. Ames but had since had a falling out. He did not initially know who crashed into the car at his party, but an eyewitness came forward earlier this spring which led Mr. Ames filing the accident report, he said.

The department never sanctioned Mr. Ames for the October 2010 accident, he said.

“It’s hypocritical he’s out giving tickets and giving arrests,” Mr. Jenks said. “The police department has had plenty of time to do something about it.

“He’s out walking scot-free from something intentional that he did,” Mr. Jenks said.

Chief Kevin Bates and Mr. Ames could not be reached for comment.

The village Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, where they will discuss hiring for an existing vacancy in the department. The board will then hold an executive session to discuss the performance of a particular employee. Mr. Yurgartis said the executive session and the complaint against the police department were unrelated.

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