Bethlehem Police Benevolent Association President Scott Anson says embattled officer Chris Hughes has the union’s support and hopes the officer will soon return to work.
In a later interview, Anson said the union supported Hughes in regard to employment issues, but to say the union backed Hughes carte blanche would be incorrect.
Hughes made allegations in May that Bethlehem Police Chief Louis Corsi used a racial slur in a recorded telephone conversation more than two years ago. Hughes has been subject to two 30-day suspensions for separate occurrences of falsifying a time sheet and `insubordination and failure to act in proper manner to/with a superior officer` and has not been on duty since. On Friday, Sept. 4, Hughes was stripped of his badge and firearm, Supervisor Jack Cunningham said, after several news interviews in which Hughes said he was suffering from stress related to his job.
Anson, speaking at the Wednesday, Sept. 9, Bethlehem Town Board meeting, encouraged the board to hire an independent party to investigate the claim of the racial slur. As it stands, Deputy Chief Timothy Beebe is handling the investigation `something Anson said is rife with conflict, as Beebe is a direct subordinate of Corsi.
`Deputy Chief Beebe answers to Chief Corsi,` Anson told the board. `This gives the appearance of bias to my members. The town should have hired an independent investigator both parties could agree on.`
Town Attorney James Potter said the town could not hire an independent investigator to handle the investigation as it involved poring over 51 CDs of audiotape ` tape that includes sensitive information, according to Potter.
`These tapes contain police matters and need to be reviewed by police personnel,` he said.
Anson also scolded the board for taking Hughes badge `without due process.`
`The town has over-reacted,` Anson said after the meeting. He said the precedent for taking someone’s police identification and firearm are termination or suspension, neither of which has happened to Hughes. `I’ve worked for the Town of Bethlehem since 1981,` said Anson. `Became an officer in 1988 and became union president 15 years after that. We’ve never had anyone suspended or terminated.`
Both Chris Hughes and his father Al, who made headlines last week by towing a trailer around with messages deriding Bethlehem officials involved in Chris Hughes’ complaint, addressed the board.
Both questioned the validity of the town’s investigation, with Chris Hughes asking why, if the town is conducting a thorough investigation, he was never asked to be interviewed by Beebe.
Cunningham said a letter of intent to interrogate stemming from a May 17 meeting between he and Hughes was to serve as his interview, but Hughes said the letter pertained specifically to the meeting with the supervisor and not to the allegations made against Corsi.
`You’re lying to the people, Jack,` Hughes said at the Sept. 9 meeting. `I’d be more than happy to talk to Deputy Chief Beebe.`
For updates to this story, check back at www.spotlightnews.com or see the Sept. 16 edition of The Spotlight.