OGDENSBURG — The vitriol between the supporters of the Ogdensburg Police Department and members of City Council spilled over from Monday night’s meeting to Tuesday when Facebook posts popped up accusing the city of disrespecting a memorial for a city employee, who recently died.
The Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 posted the following message on its Facebook page Tuesday: “We have been ordered by the part time temporary city manager that he has been instructed by someone on council to remove the blue lights in honor of Sargent Scott Reed. We’ve been informed that the mourning period is over and it is no longer appropriate to display.”
Shortly after Sgt. Reed died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Aug. 13, messages began appearing on the Support Ogdensburg First Responders Facebook page urging people to purchase and display blue lights on their properties in honor or Sgt. Reed.
City Manager Stephen P. Jellie said on Tuesday he told the fire department to take down their blue lights after he was asked by Mayor Jeffery M. Skelly to make sure the lights were not part of the Back the Blue movement.
Mr. Jellie said he had received two calls asking the same question and the Mr. Skelly said he had received two as well.
Mr. Skelly did not return a call seeking comment.
“I engaged the fire department and said we probably need to pull these down so we don’t send the wrong impression. We have been mourning for a little better than a week,” Mr. Jellie said.
Mr. Jellie said the department asked if they could continue the display for a 30 day period and he agreed to let it stay up until Sept. 12.
“We just need to all make sure we are being sensitive to other people out there right now that potentially believe this is something else. So, we have to be sensitive all the way around,” Mr. Jellie said. “Yes, we’re being sensitive to our fallen officer. Yes, we’re being sensitive to the community who doesn’t want to see public buildings with things that appear they are part of a movement like Back the Blue.”
Word spread quickly about Mr. Jellie’s initial request to take the display down and Councilor Michael B. Powers called the action an attack on labor groups.
“I’m disgusted that a member of council directed our Acting City Manager to remove the blue lights at the fire station on Ford street. This direction is a pure power ego driven display against the fine employees of this city. This is a clear attack on the labor groups that make up our great employees. Who directed this and for what purpose? This direction clearly shows that lack of true leadership. Mr. Powers wrote in an email to the Times. “This action is creating a mutiny and who ever directed this will wear it. I’ll see to that!”