Statement from Mayor Lewis- Reimagining Public Safety Investigation Report
One of my top priorities as a member of Ithaca’s Common Council, as Acting Mayor, and now as Mayor, has been the City’s Reimagining Public Safety Initiative. We need functional, responsive public safety services that are trusted and embraced by our community. Progress continues on that initiative through the hard work of Common Council members and staff despite significant headwinds from multiple directions.
Considering the depth and scope of reimagining public safety in Ithaca, some controversies surrounding the initiative were to be expected. One completely unexpected controversy that arose was the allegation of third-party influence over the Working Group process.
As I said when the allegations arose, assertions of this nature are particularly disturbing. As a result, the City commissioned a comprehensive and independent investigation of the issues raised. The City sought and engaged an investigator who has no personal or political stake in the investigation’s subject matter or outcome. It retained Kristen Smith, former Corporation Counsel of the City of Syracuse and now partner at the firm Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, as investigator.
The complete report of Ms. Smith’s investigation accompanies this release, based on months of interviews of Working Group members and others, a review of thousands of documents, and in-depth research and analysis. I want to extend my thanks to Ms. Smith for the depth and candor of her report.
Change in government is an essential component of our democratic institutions. This investigation shows us that change is best effectuated when undertaken with transparency, and respect for the rules of our government. In the coming year, I will bring to the Common Council legislation to improve our government’s procedural guardrails. Among these:
- developing and adopting a policy and process for identifying when participants in ad-hoc committees and working groups qualify as City Officials, thus clearly notifying them of that status and of their resulting inability to receive third-party payments in connection with their service to the City; and
- revising and updating the City’s Gifting and Solicitation Policy in alignment with Common Council’s objectives regarding a process for accepting donated services.
I look forward to these efforts as a path to greater community participation in City working groups and transparency of their activities.
Finally, it is an unfortunate reality that the allegations that were raised – important as they were in substance – came close to, but ultimately failed, to scuttle reimagining public safety in Ithaca. I encourage, and look forward to, the recommendations of Common Council’s Reimagining Public Safety Special Committee. Once adopted by Council, these recommendations will hopefully come to life under the leadership of our very first civilian Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety, and our first cadre of civilian first responders.
Reimagining Public Safety Investigation Report: