The Journal News by Elizabeth Ganga - August 27, 2011
NEW CASTLE, NY — A police lieutenant is accusing Police Chief Charles Ferry of stripping him of command over the internal affairs and patrol divisions of the New Castle Police Department after he investigated a sergeant who came to work drunk and was driving around town in a marked police car. Lt. Marc Simmons filed a legal challenge against the town in June in state Supreme Court asking a judge to restore him to his former positions and directing the town to refer the sergeant's case to the district attorney or attorney general for investigation. The lawsuit alleges that on Nov. 11 on-duty police officers told Simmons that a sergeant had reported for work "in an intoxicated state, and that the Sergeant was driving himself around New Castle in an official NCPD radio motor patrol car." Other subordinate officers tried to stop the sergeant, who is not named in Simmons' petition, from going on patrol, the court papers say, but he stayed out until ordered back to headquarters by Simmons. As head of internal affairs, Simmons investigated the incident and filed a report Dec. 14, the papers say. On Dec. 23, Simmons found that he had been locked out of the Personnel Investigations section of the police computer system and was told he was no longer head of internal affairs. Ferry had taken over the job, the lawsuit says. On Jan. 11, the papers say, Ferry removed Simmons as head of the patrol division. Simmons claims the reduction in his position in the department was retaliation for reporting the sergeant. There are seven patrol sergeants and one detective sergeant in the 46-member department. New Castle, which is being represented by Hodges Walsh & Slater, has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Simmons was never head of internal affairs but only one officer the chief assigned cases to. The town's attorneys also argued that Simmons did not file a union grievance as required before turning to the court and that he wasn't demoted but simply reassigned from the command of the patrol division to special services. "The chief has to be allowed to make personnel moves," said John Walsh, who is representing the town. Also, according to papers filed by the town based on Ferry's explanation of events, Simmons determined the officer was not intoxicated and allowed the sergeant to drive home. The sergeant was disciplined within the department through a stipulation of settlement and letter of reprimand. A decision on the motion to dismiss is expected in September. Ferry could not be reached Friday. Simmons and his lawyer, Craig Penn, did not return calls seeking comment.