ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – 42 days after WETM submitted its first Freedom of Information requests regarding the sudden dismissal of former police chief Anthony Alvernaz, the City of Elmira has released its first public records about what happened. One of the records is an audio file of a meeting at City Hall where Mr. Alvernaz was given the option to resign or be fired. Mr. Alvernaz took the termination. There were four people in the room. Anthony Alvernaz, his attorney, City Manager Michael Collins, and city attorney John Ryan. The audio was recorded at the request of Mr. Alvernaz’s attorney, with permission of everyone present. City attorney John Ryan then requested a copy of the recording.
In an office memo dated January 5th, Elmira City Manager Michael Collins announced the beginning of an internal investigation, saying that on January 4th he was quote “given a thumb drive by an internal police employee that contains body camera video of Chief Alvernaz attending to a call on the Southside of Elmira.” Mr. Collins tells Mr. Alvernaz to not have any contact with then Deputy Chief Kris Thorne, who was in charge of conducting the probe, or any other member of the Elmira Police Department.
In a letter sent by Alvernaz to Collins on January 9th, Alvernaz writes: “In order to protect the integrity of the internal investigation being conducted by your office concerning a matter that occurred on 12/9/22, I am requesting that I be placed on administrative leave until the completion and outcome of this investigation has been finalized. I understand that during this investigation I will have no access to any and all Elmira City property, buildings, officers, equipment, systems, tools and personnel.”
A different document obtained by WETM shows a statement from City Manager Collins that was read in person to former Chief Alvernaz at the meeting where he was fired. City Manager Collins says: “I have completed my investigation and I have determined that your conduct regarding the incident on 12/9/22, together with your behavior this past week constitutes unprofessionalism and insubordination. Accordingly, you may resign effective immediately which will result in payments of your accruals and a lump sum payment of 6 weeks, subject to federal and state tax withholdings. If you choose not to resign you are terminated effective immediately with payment of only your accruals.”
Mr. Alvernaz answers: “I’ll take the termination.”
18 News reporter Nicolas Dubina interviewed Mr. Collins at City Hall on Friday.
“Dubina: What can you tell us about what happened on December 9th 2022, which is quoted here as the incident that led to unprofessionalism and insubordination on the part of former chief Alvernaz?
Collins: I’m unable to comment in regards to the incident on 12/9.
Dubina: So for the public to know what happened, is that another avenue of freedom of information requests, correct?
Dubina: Okay. So, in terms of what you describe as unprofessional insubordination, besides that incident, you say leading up to the week prior, if I have that correct, anything you can add to that as to the course of the past week and not just 12/9?
Collins: Not at this time no.
Dubina: Is the reason for that because there are legal proceedings or why can’t you say more about it?
Collins: At this time, we have provided the necessary information that we’re able to the media. And you know, as far as additional questions I at this time, I’m unable to comment.
Dubina: As far as the body cam footage in question, that is also an avenue regarding a Freedom of Information request, that’s not something you will be releasing or commenting on what it shows?
Collins: Correct. I will not be commenting on that.”
The full interview with City Manager Michael Collins can be viewed below:
WETM also contacted Mr. Alvernaz. He told us his attorney advised him not to comment. The former chief made his only public statement two days after being fired, saying “ultimately, my beliefs cost me my job.”
The documents and audio released as public records by the City of Elmira can be viewed below.