City accepts police chief's retirement

Lisa Depies
Tom Piotrowski

Geneseo Police Chief Tom Piotrowski has retired. The chief sent a letter to Mayor Kathy Carroll-Duda announcing his intention to retire on March 1.

Piotrowski wrote, “Thank you for the numerous opportunities for professional and personal development that the city has provided me. It has been a pleasure to serve the citizens of the City of Geneseo for 26-plus years as a police officer and chief of police for the last 16 years.”

He added, “Ultimately, it is time for me to move on to another chapter of my life.”

Piotrowski has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 30. Since that time, an external review of the police department’s procedures, operations and morale has been underway.

Prior to a special city council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27, the mayor made remarks about the situation in an attempt to stymie “rumors and accusations” on social media.

Carroll-Duda said the review started after a “majority of the sworn officers went to their union with concerns.”

There are 12 sworn officers (patrol officers, school resource officer and sergeants) who are members of a Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) bargaining unit. (Another FOP unit in the city consists of five telecommunicators.)

The FOP union representative then brought those concerns to the city’s human resources manager, Brandon Maeglin, and the mayor.

The situation was discussed with the city’s attorney, Margaret Kostopulos of Ancel Glink, who recommended an external review as the “best course of action,” said Carroll-Duda.

“We wanted to create a situation where everyone felt comfortable being candid,” said the mayor.

Sgt. Steve Whittington, who plans to retire in April, was announced as the acting chief in an attempt to “avoid the appearance of anyone (trying to take the chief’s job),” said Carroll-Duda.

“The driving force (of the external review) was the police department itself and no one else, not the city hall staff, administration or the city council,” said Carroll-Duda.

Following the mayor’s comments, Geneseo police officer Dan Schmidt issued a statement on behalf of the police department’s sergeants and patrol officers saying, “We support the department review that has taken place over the past four weeks.”

A standing-room only crowd remained a city hall during a 30-minute executive session. When the council returned to open session, the chief’s intention to retire was announced.

“We all appreciate what the chief has done for the community over the last 26 years, and we want to take his wishes into consideration,” said Carroll-Duda.

The council voted to accepted Piotrowski’s retirement. They also approved a retirement package including payment of all unused, accrued benefit time, which is equal to $28,693.

The council also approved a retirement incentive equal to his salary until he is pension eligible on Sept. 24, 2018, in the amount of $24,124. Piotrowski’s annual salary was $95,036.

As part of their vote, the aldermen said a letter of good standing for Piotrowski would be issued by the city.

Audience members in attendance disagreed with the situation. Former Geneseo Mayor Nadine Palmgren said Piotrowski was “one of the best things to ever happen to Geneseo” and called his exit “a sad day for the City of Geneseo.”

Former alderman Karen West said the chief “brought a professionalism to the police department that wasn’t here before, and it’s very clear to me that’s not what the council wants.”