Mayor Shayne Gallo said Wednesday, Sept. 10 that he will meet with the city’s police commission next week to discuss the circumstances surrounding the arrest of City Court Judge Lawrence Ball by Kingston Police.
Ball was arrested by city cops on Aug. 6 based on a complaint filed by his estranged wife, Ward 6 Alderwoman Elisa Ball. The complaint alleged Judge Ball had violated a custody order by having contact with the couple’s three children when they were supposed to be in her custody.
Judge Ball was charged with second-degree criminal contempt, a misdemeanor. The case will be heard in Hudson City Court, where a Sept. 30 return date has been set. Ball was released without bail and he remains on the bench.
City officials this week acknowledged receipt of a Freedom of Information Act request from this paper seeking the arrest report, complaint and other documents of the arrest but, as of deadline, had not provided the information.
Ball’s arrest has raised questions about a potential conflict of interest based on Elisa Ball’s relationship with Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti. They’ve been dating and the relationship became common knowledge back in January when Elisa Ball acknowledged it on Facebook. At the time, Mayor Shayne Gallo and City Corporation Counsel Andrew Zweben said that they saw no potential conflict of interest in the relationship; local media reports had Elisa Ball stating she would not recuse herself from voting on police matters which come before the Common Council.
Gallo reiterated that assertion this week; saying that Ball, in her role as alderwoman had no influence over the chief’s employment contract, department hiring or firing or police operations. The council does approve budget requests from the police department and Ball routinely votes on them. Earlier this month, Ball joined in a unanimous vote to approve a $107,000 bond for new bulletproof vests and other police equipment.
“The fact is, there is no conflict,” said Gallo.
Tinti and Elisa Ball both declined comment for this story.
Was the chief aware?
But Gallo added that he would bring up the circumstances and potential implications of Ball’s arrest at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Police Commission on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Among the unanswered questions is whether Tinti had any role in, or was even aware of the complaint and the arrest and why city police did not call upon an outside agency to conduct the investigation. Police agencies often turn over cases where there is a potential conflict of interest to other departments. In Ulster County, state police, the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office can handle investigations at the request of local police. State police Capt. Robert Nuzzo said a Kingston Police lieutenant initially called a sergeant at the Troop F barracks on Route 209 to discuss turning over the complaint against Ball.
“[The KPD lieutenant] mentioned a complaint involving the wife of a judge against the judge and said, ‘It’s sort of a conflict for us’,” said Nuzzo. “But in the end he said, ‘Never mind, we’ll handle it.’”
It’s unclear where the unnamed lieutenant saw a potential conflict. Besides the relationship between Tinti and Elisa Ball, much of Judge Ball’s docket involves criminal complaints filed by city police. Ball routinely hears cases involving traffic infractions and misdemeanor crimes. Felony criminal cases come to Ball’s court for arraignment and preliminary hearings to determine if there’s probable cause to hold the accused in custody.
Gallo said he would take the matter of Ball’s arrest up with the police commission, but he added that based on the information available, it did not appear that Kingston police violated any city policy.
“If there’s any conflict with regard to the outcome of this situation, at this point I don’t have any evidence or documentation of it,” said Gallo. “I don’t see any conflict or abuse of power.”