Constable search coming to an end?

Posted 11/15/22

ELDRED, NY — If negotiations go well, a designated sheriff’s patrol car will be assigned to provide the police coverage that had previously been handled by the Highland constables.

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Constable search coming to an end?


ELDRED, NY — If negotiations go well, a designated sheriff’s patrol car will be assigned to provide the police coverage that had previously been handled by the Highland constables.

At its November meeting, the Highland Town Board adopted its 2023 budget, which included a $100,000 contract expense on the line item for police and constables. A meeting between members of the town board and the sheriff’s department was tentatively set for November 14, and did not occur due to scheduling difficulties.

According to constable committee member Chris Tambini, reestablishing the suspended constable department would come at considerable cost.

“To reinstitute the constables, there is new training that would need to be done, updates to the vehicles, equipment and the systems that they use,” Tambini said. “There’s a lot. So we’ve been exploring all options.”

The next step, he said, is to have a conversation with the sheriff’s department to determine the cost of “having a dedicated vehicle in Highland during those time frames that we need them to be here.” In the past, the Highland constables provided up to 32 hours of coverage, including eight hours on Friday evenings, 16 hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday.

Tambini said that this option would “give the Town of Highland a full-fledged police force during those times.”

While the sheriff’s department contracts with area schools to provide school resource officers, this is the first instance that the department would be in contract with a municipality to provide dedicated service.

“The Town of Highland came to us,” said Sullivan County legislative chair and District 1 representative Rob Doherty. “If the Town of Highland feels that they need more policing and wants to have a dedicated deputy, and they’re willing to pay for it, that’s on them. And if the sheriff is willing to do it and has the personnel, I don’t see why he wouldn’t do it.”

As an elected official, the sheriff is his own entity and can run his department the way he sees fit, Doherty said. Although the sheriff’s office is a department within the county, the legislature is only responsible for the sheriff’s budget, and the sheriff has the authority to enter into other contracts for coverage.

Tambini said that in exploring options, which included re-establishing the Highland constables or joining forces with the Town of Lumberland, he learned that state contemporaries are phasing out small police forces and constabulatories due to a tremendous amount of pressure to keep up with training to mitigate liabilities. He noted that the sheriff’s deputies are continually retrained as law enforcement changes are instituted.

The Highland constable department has been suspended since April 12, and discussion with the sheriff’s department has consumed a few months in trying to make a time frame where people could meet, Tambini said.

According to undersheriff Eric Chaboty, in preparing the 2023 budget, the Town of Highland reached out to obtain a figure that it could use in its budgeting process.

“Ultimately, we want some type of law enforcement re-implemented back in the area,” Tambini said. “But knowing what we know now, we want to make sure that it’s legitimate and it’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

The constable department was suspended due to allegations of misconduct. A redacted investigation report of allegations, dated May 31, was released in July. An unredacted report, which named the constable under investigation, was leaked to and printed by the Sullivan County Democrat. Administrative chief Mike Walton and constable Stephen Milisauskas tendered their resignation letters, which were accepted at the August 9 town board meeting. Both Walton and Milisauskas took fault with the town for suspending the constable force as a whole and placed the issues with the force solely on one individual.

“It’s been a difficult decision,” Tambini said. “We’re just trying to do the right thing for the community, but also make it legitimate and correct.”

Highland, Sullivan County Sheriff, constable department


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