Bethlehem suspends chief for 10 days

Town of Bethlehem Police Chief Louis Corsi has been handed a 10-day suspension by the Town Board for his use of a racial slur during a January 2006 phone conversation, a recording of which was recently unearthed.

The Town Board voted for the suspension 4-to-1 in an approximately two-hour executive session at the end of a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23. The suspension will be fulfilled by Corsi's existing vacation time, meaning he will not miss any work.

Councilman Sam Messina later identified himself the one who cast the dissenting vote, though he declined to speak further about the disciplinary action.

Town Supervisor Jack Cunningham said on Thursday that Corsi is in agreement with the suspension, having negotiated with the town through an attorney from the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.

This was basically an agreement between the town and the chief that this was an appropriate level of punishment and that he was not going to appeal it, Cunningham said.

Corsi will also have a written reprimand added to his file and participate in a cultural awareness program. Cunningham said that the details of what course will be required have not been finalized, though it will be made open to all town employees.

The suspension was delivered under Section 155 of town law, which stipulates that 20 days is the maximum suspension to be given to an employee. Though different rules exist under civil service law, the incident was well beyond that law's 18-month statute of limitation.

"Section 155 has a range of penalties. You can reprimand, you can impose a suspension not to exceed a maximum of 20 days, or you can terminate if the situation warrants it," said Town Attorney James Potter.

Cunningham said that since Corsi's statement was not made toward an individual, termination would not be a warranted action.

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