ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca Police Department Acting Chief John Joly is taking an indefinite personal leave from his position at the head of the department. He also confirmed that he will battle the City of Ithaca in court on an allegation that the city subjected him to a “hostile work environment.”
Joly confirmed his leave to The Ithaca Voice, clarifying rumors regarding his job status that began to swirl when Joly cleared out his office last week. He said there isn’t a clear timeline in place regarding when or if he will return from his leave. While Joly pointedly avoided saying he is resigning or retiring at this time, his tenure as the leader of the police department is effectively over, leaving the struggling department without a leader as staffing problems and law enforcement reform efforts both continue.
“I will be taking extended leave to focus on maintaining my own personal wellness,” Joly said.
It is unclear who will actually lead the department in Joly’s stead—Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello would theoretically be the next in line, though he is nearing his retirement date.
Monticello did not answer a request for comment. Mayor Laura Lewis declined to comment.
The move represents more turbulence for IPD, much of which has played out in public. The department has been long beset by staffing problems, though those woes have intensified in recent years. Departures of senior leadership are now mounting as well.
Joly has been with IPD for 18 years, ascending to Acting Chief when Dennis Nayor retired in May 2021. Now almost two years later, Ithaca has never had a permanent police chief since then. Joly was one of three finalists for the job in late 2022, but when his appointment was proposed by Lewis, enough Common Council members objected publicly before any official discussion took place that Lewis withdrew his nomination.
Joly will spend at least some of his newfound free time battling the City of Ithaca in court. Along with his leave, Joly confirmed that he will be filing a lawsuit against the City of Ithaca as well.
“I will continue to pursue legal action against the Mayor and the City of Ithaca for the hostile work environment that they have persistently created and subjected me to,” Joly added.
Joly did not disclose the specific conditions that led to the “hostile work environment” he alleges, though there has been speculation for several months that Joly was mulling a lawsuit against the city after his nomination to the permanent chief role was presented then withdrawn in a publicly embarrassing fashion.
In court, Joly will be represented by A.J. Bosman, the same attorney that handled former IPD officer Chris Miller’s decade-long lawsuit against the City of Ithaca. Miller claimed he was fired from the police department as retaliation for filing a complaint with the state’s Division of Human Rights arguing that he had been discriminated against for being a white person. While his argument for discrimination was rejected, Miller’s claim that he had been retaliated against for the discrimination complaint was deemed valid enough to proceed with a lawsuit. Miller and the city eventually settled in 2020, with the city paying Miller $420,000, his legal team $534,000 and an additional $20,000 from another court’s ruling, totaling $970,000.
Bosman confirmed earlier in April that a Notice of Claim has been filed, signaling Joly’s intent to file a lawsuit against the City of Ithaca seeking damages.
Coincidentally, the day after Joly ostensibly cleared out his desk last week, an agenda item appeared for the next City Administration Committee meeting proposing a substantial raise for whoever is named the next police chief. The resolution, which will be discussed at the committee’s Wednesday meeting, would implement a new salary of $150,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus. The latter would be paid out over two years. The resolution cites “the challenges facing law enforcement everywhere but particularly in our local climate, a salary increase is necessary to attract the desired candidate.”
When Joly’s appointment was proposed, the police chief would have been paid about $128,000 per year.
Ithaca Voice reporter Jimmy Jordan contributed to this article.