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Inquiry reopens brawl case

Jan 1, 2006 |

City Councilor David Dempsey admits he is responsible for having police re-open the case surrounding an altercation he had in 2004 with Mayor Tim Lattimore at city hall, but Dempsey said that was not his intent.

Dempsey said he asked Auburn Police Department Chief Gary Giannotta about the investigation's standing Wednesday after resident Mary Lou Picciano made repeated inquiries into the incident, sometimes referred to as the “brawl at city hall,” during city council gatherings.

“I wasn't sure if it was open or closed, I just wanted to know the status. (Giannotta) said it was open,” Dempsey said.

He was not aware that asking about the investigation would open the case, Dempsey said.

Giannotta said one of the two people involved in the Oct. 14, 2004, fist fight asked police to revive the investigation. He indicated the person who made the request did so because of a two-year statute of limitations on misdemeanor charges. The event is less than four months shy of that deadline.

Dempsey said the police chief simply informed him of his legal options, including the statute of legal limitations, as “part of the conversation.” He said he's not interested in press charging.

“I could choose to press charges and have him arrested but I chose to take the high road and not do that,” Dempsey said. “I want to be the bigger person.”

Cayuga County District Attorney James Vargason confirmed that Giannotta met with him Thursday and asked him to reexamine the October 2004 investigation and “give him my legal opinion regarding the matter,” Vargason said.

Because the Auburn Police Department concluded its initial probe the same month as the physical confrontation, the district attorney's office will not make any new inquiries. Vargason aims to complete his legal review of the case by next week.

“(With) the incident we are talking about, I think the families involved have been hurt enough and I'm not sure where this is coming from,” Lattimore said Friday.

He said the move to have the investigation scrutinized is another facet in the “political gamesmanship” that runs rampant among city officials.

The October 2004 incident took place during an executive session portion of a city council meeting. Dempsey hit Lattimore in the face in front of three other councilors.

The two men stated opposing reasons for the tiff. Dempsey blames a heated debate on options for the landfill and disagreements over the manager's contract led to the fight. Lattimore has said a severance package for a city employee that Dempsey was involved with caused it.

Affidavits from the other councilors in the room point to Lattimore as the aggressor and refer to talks about the manager and landfill sparking the fight.

Picciano, the resident who has been making inquiries at council meeting, believes the public deserves to know the details of the quarrel.

She announced her intent to request all written documents regarding the Oct. 14, 2004, incident from the police department via the Freedom of Information Act during Thursday's city council meeting.

She thinks it's “pretty weird” that the file was re-opened at the same time she was trying to retrieve information. Officials may not release information from a case still being investigated, even with a FOIA request.

She said she hopes to expose the “dirty politics and double standards” that plague city leaders.

“Any other resident who got in a fight in city hall would be arrested,” she said. “I'm going to work my tail off to find out (the truth).”

And that's exactly what Dempsey wants.

“My only issue is I want the facts to come out. I want the details of what happened that evening and why it happened come out,” Dempsey said.

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