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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 learning that an officer failed for nearly 18 months to report a property damage accident he caused.

Mr. Yurgartis said he received a complaint Friday from Potsdam resident Gerald Jenks Jr. about an incident in the fall of 2010. Sgt. Michael Ames was leaving a party he had attended at Mr. Jenks’s home when he backed into another car and drove away without reporting it, Mr. Yurgartis said. After being confronted with the matter this spring, Mr. Ames filed a report acknowledging the accident, the mayor 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.”

He is calling for an investigation, he said, because he feels the department handled the situation inappropriately.

He said Mr. Jenks’s complaint on Friday was the first he heard of the incident.

Contacted at the police station Saturday evening, Mr. Ames would not comment. He referred inquiries to Chief Kevin Bates, who could not be reached.

Mr. Yurgartis pointed out that village police arrested Mr. Jenks in February. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and speeding at 64 mph in a 30-mph zone on Leroy Street. Mr. Jenks refused to take a Breathalyzer test.

Mr. Ames was the sergeant on duty that night, Mr. Yurgartis said. Since his arrest, Mr. Jenks allegedly has sent threatening messages to the 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 initially did not know who hit the car the night of his party, but a witness came forward earlier this spring, after which Mr. Ames filed his accident report.

“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.”

The village Board of Trustees will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss hiring for a vacancy in the department. The board then is scheduled 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 are unrelated.

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