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Mayor David's Statement On Police Personnel, Chief Zikuski

(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) - Statement from Mayor Richard C. David:

"Over the last few weeks, there has been great deal of public discussion regarding the ongoing disciplinary hearing against Binghamton Police Officer Kristi Sager, and her subsequent public accusations against Binghamton Police Chief Joseph T. Zikuski.

On Thursday, Officer Sager informed the media that a discrimination complaint was filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights. The City has confirmed the existence of that complaint and we expect to receive an official notification in the next few days. We are also aware of the nature of the allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment, and take them seriously.

We contacted the Division of Human Rights and let the agency know the City of Binghamton will fully cooperate in every aspect of its pending investigation. Because of the unique nature of this situation, the City has also requested an expedited review to minimize the impact on the police department and to resolve this matter in a timely fashion.

At Officer Sager’s March 3 disciplinary hearing, she made several public accusations through the media regarding Chief Zikuski. It’s important to note that on multiple occasions, the Chief has denied these allegations. However, based on the nature of the allegations I felt it was in the City’s best interest to be proactive.

I instructed the City Attorney to contact an independent State agency to discuss the allegations and ensure the City was responding in an appropriate and responsible manner.

I also directed the Personnel and Safety Director to interview all female police officers to reiterate the City’s sexual harassment policy and discuss any concerns regarding their workplace environment. These interviews are ongoing but no concerns have yet been raised.

I also requested an executive session with City Council on March 11 to discuss the disciplinary process involving Officer Sager, as well as her allegations. Chief Zikuski was present and had an opportunity to answer questions.

As Officer Sager has filed a formal complaint to the Division of Human Rights, her disciplinary hearing will be temporarily postponed to allow all parties to give their full attention to cooperating with the State’s investigation. I want to stress that Officer Sager’s disciplinary hearing and her allegations regarding the Chief are two separate matters. Both will be resolved through due process.

While the Chief is adamant these accusations are not true, I do not want this to be a distraction for the Department as due process takes its course. In my discussions with Chief Zikuski, he too does not want this to be a distraction. As a result, I have placed Chief Zikuski on paid administrative leave until further notice, starting Tuesday.

This action is not disciplinary and does not imply the allegations are credible. An administrative leave will minimize disruption to the day-to-day operations of the Department, and affords the Chief a full and fair chance to cooperate with the investigation, which I support him in doing.

The department’s top priority must remain protecting the residents of this community. I made this decision for the good of the department and the good of the City. I appreciate the Chief’s understanding as we put the City’s best interests first.

There are two assistant Chiefs that play a very important role in the department’s day-to-day operations. Both will continue in their current roles, however, in the interim, I have appointed Assistant Chief William P. Yeager as Acting Chief of the Binghamton Police Department.

Acting Chief Yeager has 32 years of experience in the Binghamton Police Department. Since 2008, Yeager has served as Assistant Chief, overseeing the Detective Division, Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Community Response Team (CRT) and Traffic Division.

I am confident that Acting Chief Yeager, as well as Assistant Chief David M. Eggleston, will provide the leadership necessary to navigate us through this process.

While the Division of Human Rights investigates Officer Sager’s complaint, the City will seek out an independent review of the Police Department’s policies and operations, which will include interviews, to ensure all officers and supervisors are aware of and in compliance with the law.

Binghamton is fortunate to have an exceptional police department. These dedicated officers care very much about its reputation and credibility. The integrity of our police department is fundamental for building trust between our officers and the community they serve.

I am hopeful that these issues will be resolved as quickly as possible so we can get back to the work of enhancing public safety for all residents."