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Suspended Gouverneur officer was entitled to use gas, attorney says


GOUVERNEUR — The attorney for suspended Gouverneur village police officer Steven M. Young hammered interim Police Chief Gordon F. Ayen Jr. during an administrative hearing Tuesday about his client’s right to take gas from the village tank as the fire department chief.

Mr. Young was suspended with pay in September pending a state police investigation into whether he inappropriately used village gasoline. The village suspended him without pay Dec. 30 and brought a series of Civil Service charges, mostly violations of the rules of conduct of the police department, including conduct unbecoming an officer, abuse of position, unsatisfactory performance and untruthfulness.

The criminal investigation is in the hands of St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary E. Rain. No criminal charges have been filed.

The village accused Mr. Young of pumping gas four times last summer into his personal pickup truck from the village tank behind the municipal building, using an E2 key that ostensibly was designated for the police department but was in the possession of the fire department, rather than the E6 key that was for fire department use.

As chief of the fire department, Mr. Young was entitled by contract with the village and with department permission to recoup his gasoline use, his attorney, Michael F. Young, said. Michael Young and Steven Young are not related.

“It’s still gas he’s entitled to whether he takes it from E2 or E6. It may be in the wrong column, but he’s still entitled to it,” said Michael Young, comparing what his client may have done with filling in a number in the wrong place on a tax return form.

All of the gas in the tank belonged to the village, not to the departments and agencies that could use it, Michael Young said, so his client committed no crime.

“I guess it’s a matter of perception,” Mr. Ayen said. “It’s taken out of the police department account.”

Steven Young should not have had the E2 key that he used to pump gas into his truck, Mr. Ayen said.

“We believe he had a responsibility to find the owner of that key,” he said.

Michael Young also picked through the dozen Civil Service charges against his client. He accused the village of piling on the charges, most of them based on the allegation that his client committed petit larceny.

The village never asked Steven Young to explain his actions or to repay the police department because he had taken gasoline from the wrong account, his attorney said.

Mr. Ayen was the only witness Tuesday. The hearing is to resume with his continued testimony at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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