The Town of Babylon has backed out of a planned contract with a Suffolk County police chief to evaluate its public safety program and is instead hiring the county sheriff and a town attorney to do the work.
The town had passed a resolution in late January to hire Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante’s Safe Line Consulting company for $85 per hour up to $50,000. Gigante was charged with reviewing the town’s public safety program in light of recent police reform discussions. The town's public safety division has 112 employees consisting of fire marshals, bay constables, park rangers and public safety guards.
Gigante said he received permission to do the work from police Commissioner Geraldine Hart after submitting a form to perform outside work and "a county attorney consulted with ethics" on it.
After a Newsday article on the deal came out earlier this month, Hart said she discovered a county board of ethics opinion she'd requested about the work had never been obtained.
"I was told it was an informal conversation and some review of existing ethics opinions," she said. "There has to be higher level of scrutiny. This is not your typical working part-time at a department store."
Hart, who said she had signed off on the form Gigante submitted last summer, put a hold on the approval and asked the board to review the request.
Gigante said he was "not privy to the approval process" and was unaware that Hart had requested an ethics board opinion.
"I think there was just a lot of miscommunication," Hart said.
The article also caught the attention of Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon who reached out to Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer to offer to help. Schaffer said he spoke to Gigante and told him the town would be entering into a shared services agreement with Toulon. Babylon also will be hiring assistant town attorney Jorge Rosario for $40,000 to help in the evaluation.
Schaffer says Gigante is "one of the most talented law enforcement officials in the county," but the switch would save the town money while getting "the same type of input and expertise in helping us."
Rosario said the town approached him because of his 22 years of Army service, including as a military policeman and officer in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He said his experience includes teaching classes in "winning hearts and minds" of civilians, an approach that can be applied to public safety work.
"You want the trust of the community, you want them to know you’re there to assist and help," he said.
Toulon, who has more than 30 years of criminal-justice experience, said his office could provide training and guidance on policies and protocols. He said he already had two suggestions for the town: to hold community forums and to post statistics on summonses online.
He also hopes to work with community groups to address any potential criminal issues.
"I’m always looking at ways to help prevent our young people from offending," he said.