Tompkins County has decided to move forward with an outside investigation into the incident in Danby that resulted in the death of David Cady and the destruction of the house at 127 Hornbrook Rd.
At its April 20 meeting, the county legislature’s Public Safety Committee both accepted the After-Action Report and voted to move forward with an investigation.
In making the decision to accept the report, Legislator Will Burbank (D-Ithaca) said, “Just to be clear, the word ‘accepted’ is very particular.” Legislator Nate Shinagawa (D-Ithaca) and County Administrator Joe Mareane clarified that accepting only indicates an acknowledgement that the report was presented, whereas adopting a report would indicate an intent to implement specific actions or recommendations.
After legislators officially accepted the report, Shinagawa said, “I want us to talk about the next action steps relating to the Hornbrook Road incident.” He explained that he views the next options as simply accepting the report without taking any further steps or convening a group of outside experts who would “look at the tactics used, look at the whether the response was proportional … and also to give us guidance.” He added, “That would be my suggestion.”
For his part, Sheriff Ken Lansing said, “I feel that the two reports we gave … truly [have] exhausted everything that we can possibly do as far as being transparent.” He continued, “With that being said, should the committee decide to take this forward to someone else to look at, we would be more than cooperative.”
Shinagawa suggested that the committee might vote to delegate authority for himself and Mareane to develop a request for proposal (RFP) to help figure out who, exactly, would look into the matter and what it would cost.
Legislator Jim Dennis (D-Ulysses) asked to hear more about other legislators’ reasons for requesting an additional review.
Martha Robertson (D-Dryden) answered, “One of the things we’ve said a number of times is that we don’t know who would do an independent investigation and I guess that the RFP process is a way to figure out how we would do it.” Robertson said that specifically she hoped to learn more about the process leading up to the issuance of the warrant.
Legislator Will Burbank (D-Ithaca) said, “I think it’s pretty clear that this is not an investigation.” He expressed hope that the process would result in an understanding of what could be done better in the future.
Dennis expressed concern about the cost associated with taking another look at the incident. As he has done in the past, he characterized it as “throwing good money after other money.” Dennis said that outside of the people who have spoken at public comment, he has not heard any concerns about what happened except for “one angry person from Dryden.”
Deputy County Administrator Paula Younger suggested that instead of using the term “investigation” the committee could look into receiving technical assistance from the Bureau of Justice. Briefly, legislators discussed whether there might be any liability attached to an investigation, depending on what the findings are.
Robertson said, “I want to underscore that this independent investigation doesn’t imply criticism in any way.”
After much discussion, Shinagawa amended the resolution to indicate that the county will begin by inquiring into the possibility of receiving technical assistance from the Bureau of Justice. If that is not feasible in a reasonable time frame, then Shinagawa and Mareane will develop an RFP to present at the May committee meeting. The ultimate goal of any investigation or technical assistance analysis would be to make recommendations that could be adopted for the future.
The resolution passed by a 4-1 vote, with Robertson, Shinagawa, Chock, and Burbank supporting the measure and Dennis opposing it.
This article was originally published in The Ithaca Times.