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Board funds fed suit defense, new police cars

— The village board of North Syracuse reluctantly hired legal counsel at its meeting Oct. 11 to defend itself from a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The village, along with the towns of Clay and Cicero, hired Hancock and Estabrook LLP out of Syracuse in the event the trial takes place. Defense costs will be shared equally among the three municipalities. Both sides of the suit say they continue to hope some settlement take place, with the village of North Syracuse emphasizing that it has cooperated with the EEOC every step of the way.

The lawsuit surrounds allegations by the EEOC that the municipalities violated a federal age discrimination law by not giving credit to some older volunteer firefighters in its Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP), a pension-like program that allows firefighters to collect money based on their years of service to the department. The village acknowledged the mistake made years ago and has been working with the EEOC to fix the problem ever since.

“We've done nothing wrong,” North Syracuse Mayor Mark Atkinson said. “We've cooperated with them. I don't understand it. I will go on to say that I actually had a meeting with Sen. [Charles] Schumer yesterday... Basically I said this was a complete waste of taxpayer funds. This is a ridiculous lawsuit. Based on what I told him, he didn't think it sounded right at all. We'll see what happens.”

Trustee Gary Butterfield agreed with the mayor in opposing the suit.

“This is outrageous,” he said. “I just can't believe that we're spending money to fight the federal government. In the strongest terms, I hope this board is united.”

The board also took time Oct. 11 to okay the leasing of two new police cars. The existing fleet is comprised of five cars. The two oldest, one a 2007 model with 72,000 miles and the other a 2008 model with 80,000 miles, cost the village more than $13,000 to maintain last year. The entire fleet’s maintenance costs were $18,000 in 2011.

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