ITHACA, N.Y.—Calls made by the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association (IPBA) for the identity of an anonymous whistleblower to be investigated will not be taken up by Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten, determining there is no crime to investigate.

The complaint led to New York State Police Investigating three Ithaca Police Officers over allegations of committing overtime fraud: then-Acting Chief John Joly, as well as lieutenants Jacob Young and David Amaro. All three officers had their names cleared by investigators, an outcome confirmed by Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten. The full results of the investigation are expected to be released by the Tompkins County District Attorney’s office in the near future. 

When announcing the results of the investigation, the IPBA called for the whistleblower’s identity to be investigated and their motivations assessed—claiming the allegations were politically or personally motivated.

The call by the police union came at a time when the City of Ithaca is pursuing enhancements to its whistleblower protections for officers in the Ithaca Police Department as a part of the city’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative, aiming to foster a more transparent department by going further to protect those who allege wrongdoing internally. Thus, the police union’s request has proven to be problematic for some in city government. 

In a statement to The Ithaca Voice, Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten said, “There is no evidence that the whistleblower committed a crime and we do not investigate whistleblowers in general.”

IPBA President Tom Condzella did not respond to requests for an interview with The Ithaca Voice. Van Houten said he had relayed that decision to Condzella directly. 

The chain of events that led to the state police investigation into overtime use at IPD started when Alderpersons Cynthia Brock and Ducson Nguyen were both contacted by the anonymous whistleblower in December 2022, claiming that Joly, Young and Amaro were double-dipping on overtime for separate work with the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. They brought the complaint forward to the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office. Van Houten, in turn, requested that the New York State Police take on the investigation after investigators with the New York State Attorney General’s Office declined to do so. 

Arguing its line of thinking that the anonymous complaint had adverse motivations, the IPBA quoted a statement in its April press release made by the anonymous complainant in an email to Brock. The complainant said, “Maybe if John [Joly] and his cronies were investigated for the theft and fraud they have committed against the city for several years it would straighten this mess out.” The complaint has been reviewed by The Ithaca Voice

IPBA President Condzella blasted the anonymous whistleblower in the release for creating an “immense amount of stress” on the police union’s members while the Ithaca Police Department is already struggling under short staffing.

A statement is attributed to Brock in the release in which she says, “It is not lost on Ducson and me that this accusatory email is brilliantly damning, and painted us into a corner. By acting responsibly as elected officials, we have been used as a cudgel to harass and further demoralize our esteemed and dedicated officers who have already been through so much.”

Brock expressed that, as an elected official, she felt it was her obligation to bring forward the complaint, and that it’s important that employees feel they can bring issues forward in good faith, but also that the accuracy of any complaints be properly vetted.

But the IPBA’s call for an investigation went too far in Brock’s view. She told The Ithaca Voice in an interview, “I feel that the [IPBA] has taken a very aggressive stance on this. It feels very threatening.”

“If people have grounds to believe that something is true, you do want them to feel free to come forward with a concern,” said Brock. She expressed the worry that the “[IPBA’s] position is very aggressive, and may silence members of the public as well as the department from being fearful to raise concerns.”

Both Brock and Nguyen said that they could not be sure if the anonymous whistleblower had been or is employed by IPD. 

In an interview, Alderperson Nguyen said, “It’s hard for me to guess at people’s motivations […] I can only assume good faith on the part of the person who came forward.”

Nguyen said he found that he found the request for the whistleblower to be identified “problematic” and would not support an investigation.

Remarking on the IPBA’s request for an investigation, Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis told The Ithaca Voice that, “The important fact is that this was investigated by the New York State Police who found no fraud.”

Asked if she felt that the request for an investigation conflicted with the city’s efforts to enhance its whistleblower policies, Lewis said, “No. But I see no need for that — the request to investigate. I see no need for it.”

Ithaca Voice Editor-in-Chief Matt Butler contributed to this reporting.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn