Mayor Valentino says public hearing on police accountability board cannot proceed

A day removed from an attorney-client session, which occurred in-person among members from Geneva City Council and Emil Bove Jr., Esq., the city’s attorney, Mayor Steve Valentino spoke to clear the air as uncertainties cloud the upcoming public hearing.

Valentino told FingerLakes1.com that the scheduled public hearing for Wednesday, August 5th cannot proceed as planned after the local law regarding a police accountability board still had not been drafted and properly publicized.

“Based on how everything has transpired we were not able to meet the requirements to formally hold a public hearing on Aug. 5th,” Valentino shared with FingerLakes1.com in a written statement.

Without an official public hearing, the city cannot proceed with contemplating or adopting the local law that had been drafted by the People’s Peaceful Protests and submitted to Bove for his own self-review on Tuesday, July 21st.


RELATED READ: Geneva City Council will hold first in-person meeting tonight since COVID-19 pandemic began


as stipulated by the People’s Peaceful Protests request that had been outlined during the passing of Resolution 34-2020 at the Geneva City Council meeting held on July 1st

Although the public hearing shall not continue as anticipated, the August 5th meeting has seemingly morphed into an opportunity for community dialogue to spark, according to Valentino.

“I have every intention of still holding public comment at 5 p.m. on Aug. 5th to listen to concerns and input. This is a very important topic that I want to get moving and completed in an organized and legal manner,” he elaborated.

Opponents to Resolution 34-2020, which established the public hearing, insisted for a public input session to be scheduled rather than a formal public hearing when At-Large City Councilor Anthony Noone suggested that amendment, which failed to pass after a 30-minute debate ensued among councilors.


RELATED READ: Future of Geneva’s police accountability board up in the air, even after historic vote by city council


A supporter of the original resolution, Bove insisted that if the amendment passed, it would deviate from the legal procedure as stipulated by the state’s Municipal Home Rule Law.

“I’m not recommending you to do this. This is your decision to do this or not. You’re going outside the Municipal Home Rule now. If you’re doing it this way, you’re delaying the process” Bove informed Noone at the July meeting.

But even with Noone’s amendment failing that night, those who voted against the resolution, including Valentino, in an attempt to promote a public input session still ended-up with that result – an opportunity for public comment, and not a public hearing.

But even with this shortcoming, Valentino cannot promise but only hopes that City Council “will establish a local law that provides accountability and can withstand any arguments in court for not violating any laws” by next Wednesday.

Valentino also mentioned that Wednesday’s agenda shall include guidance from City Manager Sage Gerling “to define the process in detail that will include input from all stakeholders as the Governor’s executive order has indicated.”

Speaking from his seasoned years of experience serving on several city councils, even as a former city councilor for Ward 3, Valentino recalls how laws were drafted, considered and ultimately adopted, in his own words.

“In my experience from every previous council was that legal or staff always reviewed resolutions and provided recommendations before the hit the agenda. Local Laws and Ordinances always came through the City Attorney. This council is reading between the lines of our Charter and rules of order. Whether they are right or wrong, it is not typical. For example, with a local law, there is usually a resolution that carries a local law with it. That resolution provides for a public hearing and gives the public and other stakeholders time to respond even before the public hearing. Once the hearing is over and input received, we can move on to the next steps leading to adoption. That can range from immediate adoption to amendments and more public hearings,” he explained.

In a moment of earnest reflection, however, Valentino takes stock by assessing the current situation surrounding his fellow colleagues who serve alongside him in city government.

The fresh council, comprising of seven new faces to the city’s political process following Election Day back in November 2019 has not meshed yet as a cohesive collective, according to Valentino.

“Being a new council, COVID-19 constraints for meetings and strong beliefs is creating process challenges to execute effectively and within the guidelines. Emotions are high and along with that comes frustration. I can understand the public’s concerns from various angles. I have been on councils that worked smoothly and others that struggled for full terms. Last council took 12 to 18 months to find their feet and figure out how to better work together. My hope is that this council will find that synergy even though there will be disagreements,” he admitted.

Beyond dealing with the internal quarrels among councilors, the People’s Peaceful Protests and city’s NAACP chapter had both vowed to bring more speakers to testify before City Council for the upcoming public hearing, which has been deemed “fully defective,” citing the words of Bove.

Editor’s Note: Read Mayor Steve Valentino’s full-statement below.

“Based on how everything has transpired we were not able to meet the requirements to formally hold a public hearing on Aug. 5th I have every intention of still holding public comment at 5pm on Aug. 5th to listen to concerns and input. This is a very important topic that I want to get moving and completed in an organized and legal manner. Hopefully next Wednesday we will establish a local law that provides accountability and can withstand any arguments in court for not violating any laws. Another important factor should be on the agenda from our CM to define the process in detail that will include input from all stakeholders as the Governor’s EO has indicated. Being a new council, COVID-19 constraints for meetings & strong beliefs is creating process challenges to execute effectively and within the guidelines. Emotions are high and along with that comes frustration. I can understand the public’s concerns from various angles. I have been on councils that worked smoothly and others that struggled for full terms. Last council took 12 to 18 months to find their feet and figure out how to better work together. My hope is that this council will find that synergy even though there will be disagreements. In my experience from every previous council was that legal or staff always reviewed resolutions and provided recommendations before the hit the agenda. Local Laws and Ordinances always came through the City Attorney. This council is reading between the lines of our Charter and rules of order. Whether they are right or wrong, it is not typical. For example, with a local law, there is usually a resolution that carries a local law with it. That resolution provides for a public hearing and gives the public and other stakeholders time to respond even before the public hearing. Once the hearing is over and input received, we can move on to the next steps leading to adoption. That can range from immediate adoption to amendments and more public hearings.”


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