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Police promotions draw fire

Hamilton answered back with another memo the same day, April 25.

"Regarding promotions, it is my understanding that the commission has decided to promote Sgt. Murphy to lieutenant prior to receiving my recommendation, and prior to giving me an opportunity to discuss the issue with the commission," Hamilton said, adding commissioners should hear his recommendations before making promotion decisions. "To do anything other than that will undermine my authority and will compromise public safety in our community."

Marco also questioned the legality of promoting two men to lieutenant when the budget had just one vacant position.

She said it was her understanding that commissioners had authority to handle police promotions and appointments, but they needed town board approval for budgetary items not included in the budget.

"Isn't creating a position that will cost taxpayers more than $100,000 a year an issue that the town board should be addressing, especially because it was not requested by our chief and not included in the 2006 budget?" Marco asked.

Mertz responded that the commission isn't asking the town to pay out any more money. He said they were able to move excess funds from different budget lines in the police budget to pay for the disputed salaries.

One example he gave was a $48,000 transfer of a no longer needed retirement payout. An officer had planned to retire after the paramedic duty was merged into the ambulance service. That merger has been postponed until at least next year, so the appropriated retirement payout won't be needed this year, allowing the money to be used elsewhere in the department.

Mertz also noted that police had approximately $20,000 extra in the deputy chief's line because the position remained vacant between February and July. Also, the new deputy chief, William Manikas, was hired at an annual salary $6,000 less than his predecessor.

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