Commissioner Montagnino Channels Taliban – Vows To Fire Adulterous Police Officers!

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino has unilaterally added a section to the “Saratoga Springs Police Standards of Conduct” that will make adultery a cause for the termination of an officer. The section that was added approximately a week ago without any notification or fanfare is highlighted below in yellow. It can be found on the city’s web page.

It is important to note that Commissioner Montagnino is not just referring to relationships that may occur at work between members of the department. His broad directive includes firing officers engaging in adulterous relationships between consenting adults occurring in officers’ private lives as well. Absent from the directive is how Montagnino will determine that an officer has committed this crime.

In operatic terms, Montagnino justifies his directive by asserting that a private act between consenting adults “…bring[s] shame upon the entire department.” Supposedly, “it jeopardizes prosecutions.” He imperiously asserts “it has a corrosive effect on the morale and reputation of all members of the service whether uniformed or civilian.”

Montagnino’s amendment to the city’s standards of conduct for the police notes that adultery is still a crime in New York. This is a link to a webpage from the New York Times on this archaic law. New York is one of the few states that still has a statute criminalizing adultery.

About a dozen people have been charged with adultery since the early 1970s, most of them upstate. (Most of the charges were dismissed, or apparently were dropped after the defendants pleaded guilty to other charges.)

While no one is really at risk of being jailed for adultery, adultery still has tremendous significance in family law, said Alton L. Abramowitz, another divorce lawyer.

Adultery is one of three principal grounds for divorce in New York State…

New York Times March 21, 2008

As Commissioner Montagnino spent most of his career as a “referee” for divorces, it is not surprising that he is familiar with this law.

Federal Court Rules Firing For Adultery Is Unconstitutional

In the case of Janelle Perz v. City of Roseville Police Department; Stephan Moore, Captain Daniel Hahn, Chief, Cal Walstad, Lieutenant, the United States Court of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit ruled that unless it affects the officer’s performance, adultery cannot be used as the basis for dismissal.

Commissioner Montagnino’s rash decision to introduce this addition to the Police Standards of Conduct seems to invite costly litigation for the city.

Some History

US courts have a long and storied history of being reluctant to allow the government to intrude into the bedrooms of its citizens. We have seen this especially in recent decades in cases pertaining to gay rights. The Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas struck down a Texas law that criminalized homosexual intimate relations. The court held that “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.”

Commissioner Montagnino’s call for severe sanctions for the private, consensual off-duty sexual conduct of police officers tramples on the same Constitutional rights that the Supreme Court sought to protect in the Lawrence case.

In addition, his statement that this behavior must be punished because it brings “shame on the entire department” is particularly troubling as it brings to mind the long history of victimization and stigmatization of women who engaged in unsanctioned sexual relationships. In its most extreme form this behavior, which was considered to bring “shame” on the woman’s family, resulted in horrific deaths by stoning and honor killings. I guess just losing your job for bringing shame on your department might be considered mild in comparison.

Groups such as UN Women have asserted that “penalization of adultery … leads to discrimination and violence against women.” However, as we already know, Mr. Montagnino’s record on these issues is questionable at best.

Some Questions

I find Montagnino’s adoption of this standard more than strange. It prompts me to ask four questions:

  1. What prompted Commissioner Montagnino to adopt this standard?
  2. How will he determine that a member of the police force is involved in an adulterous relationship?
  3. His deputy, Jason Tetu, was a member of the Saratoga Springs Police Department before he became Commissioner Montagnino’s deputy. He is divorced and one of the issues that prompted the divorce was adultery. Would Mr. Tetu be subject to this standard?
  4. Does Commissioner Montagnino have an officer in mind who this amendment will be used to target?

These are really rhetorical questions as Commissioner Montagnino never responds to my queries.

9 thoughts on “Commissioner Montagnino Channels Taliban – Vows To Fire Adulterous Police Officers!”

  1. As a resident of this city since first coming in 1974 when I joined the police department, and eventually becoming the Chief of Police, Jim Montagnino is on a fast track to be the worst Public Safety Commissioner ever elected in the history of the city! He has no respect for the command staff, disregards any input from them, and instead relies on the advice of his inept Deputy who has an axe to grind! Leave policing to the police. Fire your incompetent Deputy. Bring the police command into your fold, take advantage of their experience, and do your job by meeting with the citizens of a great city and work with all parties to leave Saratoga Springs a better community at the end of your term! Otherwise I can promise you it will be your first and last term.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Ed Moore wrote, “Jim Montagnino is on a fast track to be the worst Public Safety Commissioner ever elected in the history of the city!”

        I thought that honor belonged to Thomas Curley. In 2005, then Chief Moore filed a suit in federal court against then Public Safety Commissioner Curley and his former deputy, Erin Dreyer.

        You can read a summary of the juicy details here:

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well… like Bill Clinton once said:
    You do the math!
    Chief Moore,
    Deputy Eileen,
    Commissioners Robin and Chris.
    Sub total.
    Now add current police officials, whose ranks are desending down a greased pole…
    Not one endorsing phrase from any of the above. Is my math incorrect? It was never my best subject…
    Political Science I sometimes do better at, and what I see is Commissioner Monty in the beginning stages of, sad to say, a complete meltdown. Today’s episode, as reported above, confirms this diagnosis.

    Our task at this point is to be vigilant for clues that this syndrome is progressing (regressing?) further.
    For instance, if Comm M starts juggling steel balls, or spending SSPD resources on a strawberry hunt, those are pretty good signs.
    However, if by fiat, the Commissioner announces that he is changing the official SSPD language to Swedish in all radio communications, that would indicate that things have advanced to a level of no return…
    I’m not sure (must consult w/ Tony Izzo on this) if a Commissioner can participate in a council meeting in a straight jacket.
    But we, as good citizens, should redouble our efforts to not have to find out.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a weird addition. I don’t know what other offenses are fire-able, but if Montagnino is going to use “adultery is still a crime in New York”, I wonder if all other crimes would also also result in a dismissal. Is there similar language for parking tickets, speeding violations, behavior while intoxicated, etc.? If not, where in the “it’s technically illegal” spectrum does Montagnino draw the line?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow okay this guy is something else! So let me get this straight….it is more important to put a blurb in the police code of conduct around infidelity than it is to take care of the matters the City needs addressed now. What is being done about all the violence on and around Caroline Street? What about restaurants looking to add outdoor dining? How about the fact that this City will be busting at the seams in three months?! What are you doing to prepare for that? Oh right..making sure the police are not stepping out on their spouses. Funny considering the Deputy’s history. And I’m sorry but is it just me or do we discriminate much?? Where are the changes to the fire department code of conduct? Sounds like a witch hunt to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Slippery slope here. The logic really is: ‘Officers must follow the laws they are entrusted to uphold. Not following the law can perjure your testimony and is hypocritical’. This is so obvious, I hesitate to think it needs to be included in the police manual.

    Adultery is an old religious crime in judiasm, islam, and most christian sects that found its way into secular law. There are lots of laws that are unconstitutional, and from a practical perspective, this should not be enforced or referenced in a police standards manual. It is much better to stick with ‘unprofessional relationships’ in a conduct guide for officers. Adultery may be an ‘unprofessional relationship’ in certain cases.

    Jesus, Moses, and Mohamed all had differing views on this…

    This is something between the partners in a marriage to deal with – the state has no Constitutional right to interfere.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To add to all the observations regarding Montignino here, was he response at the council table last evening. He took no responsibility for any of the criticism or his actions. He blamed others and essentially rewrote the story. He attacked the actions of DA Heggen because it all comes down to “He’s not his fault and he’s not his own responsibility” and how dare anyone to challenge him. He at no point defended the officers he is charged to oversee and SUPPORT. He made no response to those in the audience who called them sub-human and pigs (a throw back to the 60s).It was all about him and how he is right and everyone else is wrong. He is a disgrace.

    Liked by 1 person

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