If the police referendum passes on Dec. 5, Mayor Jack M. Martins and village attorney John Spellman are confident that the village has the legal right to follow the will of the voters.
If the voters of Mineola pass the December 5 referendum to establish a village police department, Spellman believes that the county charter allows for the village to legally pull out of the Nassau County Police District and establish its own force.
Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has not said whether he would challenge the legality of whether the Village of Mineola can establish its own police force. He said only that he believes it would cost the taxpayers of the village more money than they are currently paying for county patrol, although the Mineola Police Task Force Operational Report says otherwise.
Mayor Martins wonders that if establishing a police force is such a bad idea, then why didn't Suozzi abolish the Glen Cove Police Department and join the county's force when he was mayor of Glen Cove. Martins believes that if Glen Cove and numerous other villages have the right to protect themselves with their own force then Mineola should also have that right.
Spellman said that before the process of looking into a Mineola police force began, he researched whether the village had a legally binding contract with the county. According to Spellman, a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request showed no document or contract existed that required a relationship between the Nassau County Police Department and the Village of Mineola.
Spellman said the county charter clearly provides a mechanism to pull out of the county police department and re-establish a village police department.
Section 803 of the Nassau County Charter states that "Any such city or village may withdraw from the county police district on the last day of any county fiscal year provided that ...a majority of those voting on the proposition vote in the affirmative; provided that such former police of such city or village as at the time are members of the county police department shall by the act of such withdrawal be returned to their former status as members of such city or village police."
Resident Jim Bartscherer, who has questioned the Mineola Police Task Force's findings, wonders if the village formed its own police department whether taxpayers would still have to pay the county's police district tax in addition to the headquarters tax. Bartscherer reasons that when the Nassau Police District was formed in 1938, Mineola was part of it so Mineola may be bound by the district tax.
The Mineola Police Task Force Report states that no village or city with its own police force pays the Nassau Police District tax. Mayor Martins and Spellman are confident that this is correct. In fact, the Village of Old Brookville has its own police department, which began in 1949, and that village does not pay the police district tax.
- Joe Rizza