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Chief's son ordered off town Police Department

The Eden Police Department illegally employed the town police chief's son as a police officer for more than six months, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark.

State officials demanded the department terminate the appointment of Seth Howard, the son of Eden Police Chief Patrick M. Howard and the nephew of Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard.

And Clark said all traffic tickets Seth Howard wrote in 2007 -- dozens, according to one town official -- should be "null and void."

Patrick Howard indicated he terminated the appointment of his son early this month after receiving an order from Denise E. O'Donnell, the state's commissioner of criminal-justice services.

O'Donnell's letter, dated June 27, said Seth Howard, appointed an Eden police officer on Jan. 4, 2006, could not serve as an officer since he did not complete the police academy course he started last August.

Seth Howard did not complete the police academy, because he could not run a mile as the result of injuries suffered in a car accident, Eden Supervisor Glenn E. Nellis said.

O'Donnell's letter said her department did not have any record of the accident and would not grant an exception.

According to state officials, Seth Howard's appointment should have ended on Jan. 5.

Patrick Howard, without confirming the identity of the terminated officer, said he thought the officer was serving "with the blessing of [O'Donnell's department]."

He said the town had received state permission for the officer to fulfill duties as a police officer starting in January 2007 if he entered the police academy again this fall.

Patrick Howard said he wrote a letter June 5 asking for an extension of state law's one-year allowance for officers to complete the police academy course, a Division of Criminal Justice Services official said.

Seth Howard can enroll in the police academy this fall and then become a police officer if he passes, O'Donnell's letter said.

The letter does not appear to indicate the division had any record of Patrick Howard's January request for the exception, a Division of Criminal Justice Services official said.

The town has asked its attorney to review the situation, Nellis said.

"We were advised . . . by our town attorney and, through him, conversations with [the Division of Criminal Justice Services] that it was OK for Seth to continue under the circumstances that had been explained to that office," he said.

Town Prosecutor Melissa Zittel is recommending town justices dismiss any unpaid tickets Seth Howard issued this year, Clark said.

But Patrick Howard disputed Clark's statement that all the 2007 tickets are "null and void."

The district attorney's office also has to investigate any arrests Seth Howard made, Clark said, especially if no other officers assisted in the arrest.

Any arrests Seth Howard made alone could have "possible civil consequences," Clark said. Neither Clark nor Patrick Howard knows whether Seth Howard arrested anyone.

Patrick Howard cannot suffer legal consequences, Clark said, for the illegal appointment.


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