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Despite dissent, Gerace named new chief

Longtime Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace will be Fredonia’s new police chief after a 3-1 vote of the village Board of Trustees Monday night.

Trustee James Lynden voted “no,” and Mayor Douglas Essek also voiced an objection to the hire. Their issues were not with Gerace, who was sheriff for 24 years and had been head of security at Chautauqua Institution. Instead, they had problems with the procedure behind his hiring.

“I want to request that this board consider not acting on any appointments or terminations until the new board takes office in 31 days. Let the new board take action on these important decisions,” Essek said before the resolution to hire Gerace was introduced.

Lynden wanted to table the resolution.

“During this time that we were requesting applications, there was a procedural change,” he said. “Initially, it was requested by this board to have in-house promotional applications taken, and there were some given. Then, part way through the process, there was a change by some members of the board to advertise out to the public, outside the department, for the same position.

“I guess my question is, what does this say to the employees of the village and the applicants? It almost appears like a steering of something,” Lynden added.

See GERACE, Page A

Gerace

Trustees EvaDawn Bashaw, Roger Britz and Scott Johnston would not second Lynden’s motion to table Gerace’s hiring. They provided the three votes necessary to make the hire.

“Before I vote, I just want to mention, the idea of not following through on this appointment now makes no sense to me,” Johnston said. “We spent months going through the materials and interviewing people, and to stop now, just because we’re close to the end of our term, just doesn’t make sense to me. That means all the work that we have put in, would have been for nothing.

“Also, we didn’t change any rules,” he added. “All we did was expand the number of people we interviewed. We didn’t change any rules, we didn’t bring in any new people, we simply interviewed further down the (civil service eligibility) list.”

Gerace’s hiring is effective Dec. 13. It’s a provisional hire, so the Board of Trutsees will eventually have to appoint him permanently. Gerace will make $88,800 a year, which would go up to $93,800 upon his permanent appointment.

A Democrat, he was defeated in the 2018 election for county sheriff by the current officeholder, Republican James Quattrone.

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