Woman struck by off-duty police officer dies Saturday


Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — One of two women struck by an off-duty city police officer charged with drunken driving died early Saturday, city police announced. Lyn Briggs, 55, of 65 Central Ave., Apt. 10, Cortland, died at University Hospital in Syracuse after being in a coma for the last two weeks, according to the Cortland City Police Department.
Briggs suffered multiple skull fractures and brain swelling on Nov. 17 after she and another pedestrian, Melody Benn, 55, of 65 Central Ave., Apt. 11, were hit by Jeffrey “Chip” Stockton, an off-duty city police officer at the corner of Church Street and Central Avenue.
Stockton, 38, of 16 Frank St. Cortland, admitted to other officers that he had “a few beers” and was text messaging “a girl” on his cell phone when he struck the two women with his 2000 GMC Jimmy, according to a statement filed with the City Court.
After the accident Stockton was charged with second-degree vehicular assault, a felony, driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, and failure to
exercise due care, a violation.
Lt. Jon Gesin, of the city police, said the department was notified about Briggs’s death Saturday afternoon and that it is up to District Attorney
David Hartnett to amend the charges.
Hartnett could not be reached by phone.
Although Gesin said he does not know what Hartnett will do, he speculated that Stockton will be charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, a felony.
“I don’t want to speak for the district attorney,” he said
Vehicular manslaughter is a class D felony that carries a state prison sentence of 2 to 7 years.
Gesin said police officials will meet with Hartnett Monday to discuss the possibility of new charges. State Police are assisting in the accident
Stockton was placed on suspension without pay Tuesday due to internal charges for violating the rules and regulations of the department. Gesin
said there is hearing pending for those charges, but a date has not been set. Stockton was initially suspended with pay.
Stockton’s next court date is scheduled for Dec. 20. He was excused from an appearance on Nov. 22 because, according to his attorney, Mark Suben, he has enrolled in a 21-day rehabilitation program. Suben declined to release where Stockton’s is receiving his counseling. Suben could not be reached for comment Saturday afternoon.
Gesin said he does not know Briggs’s official cause of death and that an autopsy is scheduled for Sunday.



At Center for the Arts in Homer —

Steeple ceiling collapses on bell


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer firefighter Mike Keegan looks over a collapsed ceiling in the bell tower of the Center for the Arts in Homer from atop his department’s aerial ladder Friday afternoon. Engineers are scheduled to examine the building for any structural damage.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A fallen ceiling in the steeple of the Center for the Arts had officials concerned Friday afternoon.
First Assistant Chief of the Homer Fire Department Ernie Newell said that when fire fighters first arrived at the former church on Route 11 they believed that the bell in the steeple had fallen, but after sending a firefighter up in a ladder to inspect it, officials think the ceiling of the steeple fell in for an unknown reason.
“The wood itself has collapsed around the bell,” he said. “A bystander heard the collapse and called 911.” The ceiling fell at around 2:30 p.m.
Newell said the bell is bolted to the floor of the steeple, and he does not think the ceiling was supporting any of its weight.
Mike Pollack, board member from the Center for the Arts, said all of the upcoming events planned at the center will go on as scheduled. He said the center was contacting its insurance agent and an engineer to assess the damages.
The building is insured for $1 million, Pollack added.
No one was in the church when the ceiling collapsed.


Audit finds one violation at Cincy School

Staff Reporter

CINCINNATUS — A state audit of the Cincinnatus Central School District found only one infraction, which the district says it will correct.
According to the report, which was released this week, the district has properly taken care of its “capital assets” but has violated state regulations with its current claims auditor. It is a violation of State Education Department regulations for a school to employee a BOCES employee as a claims auditor, which Cincinnatus has done for the last two years, the report said.
Cincinnatus Superintendent of Schools Steven Hubbard said Friday the claims auditor is an employee of the Broome-Tioga BOCES, which is under contract to handle several business office functions for the school district.
Hubbard said since Cincinnatus is a member of the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES, district officials were not aware the arrangement with Broome-Tioga for the work of a claims auditor was a violation. The state Education Department has given the district permission to continue the arrangement until the end of the school year, when a new claims auditor will be hired, he said.
“The district will work with the Broome-Tioga BOCES and our central business office to, ‘ensure that its appointment of the district’s claims auditor is in accordance with SED regulations,’” Sandra Rausa, president of the Board of Education, wrote in a letter to the state Comptroller’s Office.
Other than the claims auditor violation, the audit found no other problems, stating, “the district officials designed and implemented appropriate internal controls over capital assets.”
The report defines capital assets as, “those assets that have a useful life of more than one year and include such things as land, buildings and building improvements, furnishings, and equipment, such as vehicles, computers, copiers and other electronic equipment.