The pistol permit of Sgt. Ros Devlin, the Otsego County corrections officer who is at the center of the county’s investigation into the sheriff’s department, was revoked in January, and his petition to have it reinstated was denied by a judge in March, according to court records released by the county’s Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
According to the March 28 decision by Judge Richard Northrup Jr., Devlin was accused by another corrections officer of threatening in January to kill himself on his supervisor’s desk and of making threats to shoot up a school in Oneonta or Milford.
Devlin’s father, Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr., said he was shocked the county released the information. He said two other officers in the room during a Jan. 5 conversation between Sgt. Devlin and the other officer, said they heard no threats.
“I think the county sunk to a new low with the release of this document,” Sheriff Devlin said. “It is a last hurrah, low-blow attempt to ruin someone’s life over something that may not have been said. Listen, I do not want to gloss over a threat of workplace violence. We take that very seriously here. But I think what the county did was wrong.”
Ros Devlin is on leave from his job at the county jail, which is outside of Cooperstown on County Highway 33. Sheriff Devlin said his son had been suspended by the department in January pending an investigation, and is in limbo, waiting on the county to finish its investigation. The younger Devlin has also been banned from county property by an order from Board Chair Kathy Clark, R-Laurens, Otego.
Otsego County Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, who is the chair of the PSLA committee, said the decision to release the court order came from the county’s labor attorney, Matthew Ryan of Roemer, Wallens, Gold & Mineaux. He said he knows the allegations made in the court testimony were serious, if uncorroborated, but said he felt that the county’s first priority was safety.
“Unfortunately it is contentious,” he said. “You are dealing with somebody’s family, and their reputation, but we also have to consider the employees and the constituents we have sworn to protect.”
The court records reveal the details about the complaint against Sgt. Devlin that started the investigation, which was sent to the PSLA committee by the Otsego County Board of Representatives in a unanimous vote on March 1.
According to the court records, Sgt. Devlin was angry at his supervisor, First Sgt. Jared Hubbard, because Hubbard had reprimanded him for bringing his personal cell phone to work and for parking in an unauthorized space. Hubbard’s wife, Catherine Hubbard, a corrections officer, and two other officers were reportedly present at the time.
According to Catherine Hubbard’s testimony, Sgt. Devlin said he would bring a bag full of guns to work and, “blow my head off over First Sgt. Hubbard’s desk, so that every time he blinks, he can see my face explode.” Hubbard testified that Sgt. Devlin then said he could “shoot up” Oneonta Elementary School or Milford Central School to create a diversion so no one would respond at the jail.
A press release Thursday from Otsego County Board Clerk Carol McGovern, on behalf of the PSLA committee, echoed Frazier’s concerns, saying, “the county was very concerned about the possible threat to the schools and public safety,” and therefore referred the matter to District Attorney John Muehl. In addition, the statement said the county’s authority in the matter comes from its mandate to protect its employees, regardless of who has legal authority to oversee the jail.
A second corrections officer, Alicia Scanlon, testified in March that she heard the conversation between Devlin and Hubbard, but said she did not hear any threats made by Sgt. Devlin. Another officer, Justin Proulx, was named in the report as also being present for the conversation, but he apparently did not testify in March.
Sgt. Devlin also testified in the March trial, telling the court the incident had been investigated and did not lead to any criminal complaints. He said he had been seeing a mental-health counselor, Deborah Lumia, and presented her statement that “she sees no issue with him.”
Attempts by this newspaper to speak to Sgt. Devlin on Thursday were unsuccessful. Sheriff Devlin said his son had been advised by his attorney not to speak about the issue. A call to Sgt. Devlin’s attorney, James Ferrari of Fly Creek, was not returned by deadline. Ferrari is also an assistant public defender for Otsego County.
Northrup’s ruling said he found no reason to doubt Hubbard’s testimony and that Sgt. Devlin “has shown himself to be lacking the essential temperament or character which should be present in one entrusted with a pistol permit.”
On Thursday, Frazier and Sheriff Devlin said they were concerned about the welfare of county employees, although they disagreed as to the cause of their concerns.
Devlin said he had to spend part of the day Thursday checking in on his officers to make sure there were no disputes between the officers who testified and their co-workers. He reiterated that it is the New York State Commission of Corrections, not Otsego County, that has jurisdiction over the jail, and said he has invited the state’s commission to return to Otsego County this month to reinspect the facility. He said he has turned over several more boxes of personnel records to the PSLA committee and will continue to comply even though he believes the county lacks jurisdiction in the matter.
Frazier said he wants county residents and employees to be able to trust the county government and the sheriff’s department. He said the new boxes of records are being processed by the committee and that much of what the committee requested has been turned over by the sheriff. But he said it was too soon to know if the committee received everything it requested.
In addition, Frazier said that beyond safety, he only wants to pursue the truth in this case, and to make sure future incidents at the jail or in the department are handled correctly.
“There aren’t any winners here,” he said, “but as long as everything comes out ... then that is good.”