Kenneth P. Achtyl did the right thing by resigning as an Erie County sheriff’s deputy. However, backdating his resignation letter to the day before his conviction on three misdemeanors suggests he is hoping to preserve his chances of finding a new job in law enforcement. That should not be allowed to happen.
Achtyl’s assault of a Bills fan outside New Era Field in 2017 got him convicted of reckless assault, official misconduct and falsifying business records to cover up his own conduct for using a baton during his arrest of Nicholas Belsito.
The convictions are misdemeanors, but there is precedent for public employees losing their jobs for lesser crimes. A state Court of Appeals, in its decision for Duffy v. Ward in 1993, ruled that public employees can be dismissed when found guilty of crimes that violate their oaths of office, felony or not. Achtyl’s filing of a false arrest record would seem to qualify.
Achtyl is leaving the Sheriff’s Office after 19 years of service; he needs 20 to qualify for his pension.
By dating his resignation letter to before his conviction, Achtyl appears to be setting himself up to argue that he was not “removed” or “removed for cause” from his job, definitions that if applied to his case could disqualify him from future employment as a police officer.
As of Wednesday, the sheriff’s administrative chief, John W. Greenan, said no decision had yet been made on how the Sheriff’s Office would list Achtyl’s departure when reporting it to the Central State Registry of Police Officers and Peace Officers.
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which maintains the registry, needs to pay attention. If the only way for Achtyl to receive his pension is for him to land a police job for one more year, that should be a non-starter. His assault of an unarmed citizen makes him unworthy of carrying a badge.
The deputy brought this upon himself by losing his temper after Belsito swore at him after trying to get information from Achtyl about where a friend of his had been taken by deputies. Using profanity with police is never a good idea, but it does not constitute grounds for getting beaten until bloody.
Achtyl could face two years in jail. After serving his time, he is free to seek employment. But police work should not be an option.