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Overtime dispute may lead to Lockport police captain's departure

Capt. Brian W. Wentland, who was chief of detectives until November, has been placed on leave because of a dispute over about $275 in overtime pay and is expected to retire, Lockport city officials said.

"No disciplinary action has been taken to date," Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said. He added, "It's at a point where I think leave was necessary."

The city Police Board suspended Wentland without pay for eight days in November over a complaint from Niethe over a job interview Wentland conducted with an applicant for a patrolman position. After that, Police Chief Michael F. Niethe shifted him from chief of detectives to training captain, a change not described as a disciplinary move.

Robert L. Boreanaz, attorney for the city's police union, accused Niethe of "running roughshod over the collective bargaining agreement" in the new dispute over Wentland's claim of overtime for supervising detectives by phone during a case that arose on a scheduled day off for Wentland in October.

Common Council President David R. Wohleben said the amount in question is about $275.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said the overtime dispute turns on whether the union contract allows a supervisor to claim payment for work done from home, or whether the person must be at the office or a crime scene.

Boreanaz alleged Niethe approved the payment and then changed his mind.

"The chief, in his warped logic, thinks a supervisor can only perform his job as supervisor in person," Boreanaz said. "The chief wants to violate state and federal wage and hour laws for not paying Brian for the work he performed after he signed off on it."

"There are legitimate arguments on both sides," Ottaviano said.

The new issue appears to be the climax of bad relations between Wentland and Niethe.

McCaffrey said the two were the only candidates for police chief when the position was vacated by Lawrence M. Eggert in 2015.

"I'm not going to deny that," Ottaviano said when asked if there were personal issues between the two.

Niethe declined to comment and Wentland could not be reached.

Wentland's paid administrative leave took effect last Monday, McCaffrey said.

City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said the Police Board worked out an agreement with Boreanaz, delaying further action until Feb. 26.

"That February date is most likely a retirement date for Mr. Wentland," Ottaviano said. "We are affording that opportunity if he wants to retire."

Feb. 6 marks Wentland's 20th anniversary of joining the police force, but time spent on leave or suspension doesn't count, so a later date was set. Officers who serve 20 years are eligible for full pension and post-employment medical benefits.

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