Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chief says cops can use loaner cars

Use of vehicles from city tower allowed under union contract, Chief Gerry Dessoye says.

April 03. 2013 11:47PM

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WILKES-BARRE — Police Chief Gerry Dessoye on Wednesday said he doesn’t like the fact police officers are accepting loans of vehicles from LAG Towing owner Leo Glodzik III, but he is powerless to stop it unless there’s evidence of any improper influence being exerted.

Dessoye said he has spoken about the issue with the police union officials, who advised him they did not believe he had the authority to dictate from whom they could purchase, or accept a loan of, a vehicle. After reviewing the union contract and city policies, he agreed with their interpretation.

“They told me I have no say if they want to borrow a vehicle unless I show there is some influence gained because of that. I looked at the rules and regulations and they are correct,” Dessoye said. “Do I personally like that fact they are doing this with LAG? No, but only because of the microscope that LAG Towing is under right now.”

Questions about Glodzik’s loan of vehicles to officers surfaced Sunday after Forty Forty resident Mark Robbins took photos of a truck being driven by officer John Majikes that still has a specialty “repair towing” business license plate registered to Glodzik. Glodzik has said he loaned vehicles to other police officers as well.

Councilmen Bill Barrett and Tony George, both former police chiefs, have said they believe the vehicle loans present a conflict of interest because LAG is the exclusive tower for the city, raising the appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether anything is actually going on.

Dessoye said he agrees the situation presents a possible conflict, but his hands are tied.

“We never said we didn’t see this as a conflict. We said it doesn’t violate the rules and regulations of the police department,” Dessoye said. “I can tell officers I would hope they would use better discretion, but I do not have authority to direct their actions if no policy is being violated.”

The review of city’s policy on gratuities shows it does not specifically state that a police officer cannot, under any circumstance, accept a gratuity. It says they cannot accept as “payment for favors rendered or anticipated in connection with his official duties.”

In a related matter, Dessoye said he does believe there is an issue with Majikes continuing to drive a Dodge Ram truck that Glodzik purportedly sold him with the “repair towing” tag still on it. Dessoye said he was advised there was an issue with completing the transfer but Glodzik was in the process of getting the vehicle titled so that it could be sold in Pennsylvania.

Vehicles bearing specialty business plates, including “repair towing” plates, can be driven only by the business owner, an employee or a family member, according to the state motor vehicle code. If the owner of the vehicle allows someone else to drive it, he or she can be cited and potentially lose the right to have the plate, according the code.

Dessoye said he is looking into the matter, but there has been some confusion over whether there is a grace period of 30 days when a vehicle has been sold. He said he has advised Majikes to discontinue driving the truck until the process is complete and he has his own license plate, but he cannot force him to do so. He noted Majikes or Glodzik face the possibility of a citation, however, should Majikes disregard his advice.

“That’s what I hope the officer will do. I can cite him if I find out there is a violation,” he said. “I’m not going to put that effort into it yet, providing the problem ceases. … I’m satisfied all parties have been warned.”

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