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Accused police official sought union aid with legal fees

Hamburg Assistant Police Chief Stephen E. Mikac, who is fighting departmental charges against him, asked the captains and lieutenants' union to contribute to his defense fund.

The former president of the union, Lt. Michael Lavelle, testified during Mikac's disciplinary hearing Monday that after he received the letter requesting a donation last year, he polled the eight other members of the Command Officers Association by telephone. All but one approved the contribution.

Police Chief Michael Williams filed charges last year against Mikac, accusing him of violating rules, orders and regulations of the department in dealing with a female recruit, not telling the chief that the recruit felt she was being graded unfairly by field training officers, and being uncooperative with the internal investigation into the matter.

Disciplinary hearings usually are held behind closed doors, but Mikac has exercised his right to a public hearing. The hearing officer will make a recommendation to the Town Board, which, if it finds the charges are sustained, could fire him.

After soliciting his former union for money, he was served with additional charges of violating the chain of command.

The assistant police chiefs and police chief used to be members of the Command Officers Union, but do not pay dues or participate in business meetings. Craig Bucki, the attorney hired by the Town of Hamburg to present Williams' case, introduced a 2008 decision by the Public Employment Relations Board which separated the chief and assistant chiefs from the union representing lieutenants and captains.

Lavelle said he considers former members of the union to be part of the Command Officers Association. He said he believes some of the charges against Mikac took place when he was a member of the union and that Mikac had been an active member and raised a lot of money for the union. He said no member suggested the donation was contrary to the association's bylaws.

The union sent a $1,000 check to Mikac's attorney.

He said the union has not given money to any other assistant chief or chief, but he added, "No assistant chief or chief has been brought up on charges."

Capt. Kevin Trask testified that he was against donating the money, and suggested the poll of members be put off until a meeting could be held.

He said he also alerted the police chief that the solicitation had been made, because he felt it would come out at some point and the chief should know about it.

Trask and Assistant Police Chief John Conlon said that during meetings conducted concerning the recruit's performance, they believe Mikac should have told them he had contact with the recruit. But they said Mikac did not evaluate her performance. Trask said Mikac suggested her switching her field training officer, but Trask told him he did not think that was a good idea.

Conlon also testified that Mikac's cellphone was confiscated and photographs were taken of text messages.

The hearing will continue next week.