Controversy Envelops Vote On Ashley K-9′s Future
ASHLEY — In front of a packed room of divided borough residents, Ashley Borough Council on Friday night voted 2-1 to retire its police dog and give him to his former handler who recently left for another job.
But one councilman, whose vote was marked down as an abstention, claims he wanted to vote no and the motion should have ended in a tie.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the controversy will play out.
As of Friday night, borough Solicitor Bill Vinsko said the 2-1 vote stands to retire the dog, Mick, a Belgian Malinois who had been living with borough Councilman John Gibbons since K-9 handler Officer Chris Cappaso left to take another full-time job.
The vote was taken after more than an hour of heated debate by residents on both sides of the issue.
Some argued that the dog is a police department asset the borough and its residents paid for through donations.
“You’re giving him a $20,000 pet?” said Jim Barberio, an automotive shop owner who donated to buy and train the dog. “We were promised a tool.”
Others said that it was unlikely Mick would adapt to another handler, not to mention the costs to train another officer, and the dog was best left with Capasso.
Officer Joe Wildes implored council to keep the dog, which is 4 years old.
“This animal is a police asset. It’s not considered a pet. This community put a lot of time and effort into this. He could be retrained,” Wildes said
Prior to the debate, Vinsko noted that the owner of K-9 Guardian Inc., which trained Mick, recommended that the dog be retired to go live with Capasso.
Councilman Gerry Maldondo first proposed a motion to keep the dog in a kennel while the borough decides what to do. The motion was voted down 3-2.
Councilman Brian Casey then proposed the motion to retire the dog, saying the borough can’t afford a K-9 unit let alone the costs to train another officer to be a handler.
If the dog was to be placed with Capasso, he wouldn’t be allowed to be used as a police dog in another municipality, officials said.
Maldonado was the first to vote, saying he wanted to abstain because he was in favor of his motion.
Councilman Frank Sorokach voted against the motion, then Councilwoman Schappert abstained because she was part of the commission that recently interviewed two officers who wanted to the new K-9 officer.
Casey and Don Sipple then voted yes.
Vinsko tallied the vote as 2-1 with two abstentions, then ended the meeting.
Maldonado then claimed he wanted to vote no, but the meeting had already ended.
“It should be tied,” Maldonado later said.
Gibbons was not present at the meeting.
Prior to the controversy about the dog, Vinsko said rumors that council is planning to disband the police force and rely on state police for coverage were not true.
However, he acknowledged officials reached out to Hanover and Sugar Notch to see if there was any interest in a “global consolidation.”