A new police chief won’t be appointed at least until late spring, but two new Republican Town Board members say the town supervisor is making a “sneaky” attempt to select the new chief.
Republicans Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich, who staged a major upset in November by winning board seats, said it’s “an assault on open government and runs contrary to what Guilderland town law requires.”
In a joint statement, they said: “Public safety concerns demand our next police chief be chosen in an open process that involves substantial public input and casts a wide net for qualified candidates.”
The Albany County Department of Civil Service posted an exam announcement for the police chief in early January, but Grimm and Redlich said Town Supervisor Kenneth Runion did not consult with the Town Board, even though town law requires the Town Board select the police chief.
Further, said Redlich, the exam announcement is “promotional” instead of “open,” which means it’s limited to current town employees. He said the only two eligible to take the promotional exam are acting Police Chief Carol Lawlor and Lt. Curtis Cox.
He said Runion is trying to limit the field of candidates.
Runion said Thursday it’s obvious Redlich and Grimm don’t understand the civil service process. He said four candidates, including Lawlor and Cox, are being considered and more candidates are likely to qualify when civil service test results are final.
“Until all the test results come in, we don’t have anyone to appoint. The scores have to come in from Albany County Civil Service,” said Runion, a Democrat, who ran unopposed in November and won a fifth term.
There’s been one board meeting since the Republicans were sworn into office, breaking the Democrats’ hold on the board. Runion acknowledged no discussions about a new police chief took place at the meeting.
Under Albany County Civil Service regulations, there are two tests: open competitive and promotional. Albany County sent the town a list of candidates who passed an earlier police chief exam, and the town canvassed the list, but there were not three people who were interested, as required, said Runion. Accordingly, the town notified the county and a new test is scheduled.
Runion said that the promotional exam was scheduled before Redlich and Grimm were elected and that Lawlor and Cox would have to pass the test in March to be considered for the police chief position, like any other candidate would.
Another option is to hire a police chief who serves in another jurisdiction who might want to transfer to Guilderland.
Appointing a new chief is a board decision, although as supervisor Runion has the power to appoint a chief provisionally.
He said Thursday he has no plans to do this because Redlich and Grimm would likely dispute such an appointment for “personal political gains.”
“We don’t want a closed process,” said Runion. “We want to make sure everyone is qualified and we get an entire field of candidates.”
Redlich said the process is so closed that he never heard about it and happened to see the posting for Guilderland police chief on the county Web site. He said he was never notified as a board member about it.
When he looked back at the Town Board meeting minutes he found nothing about it in November and December, either.
“The Town Board didn’t authorize the posting for the position. The Town Board wasn’t consulted about this,” said Redlich.
Since the last day to file for the exam is Jan. 30, 2008, Redlich has sent a letter to the Albany County Department of Civil Service asking it to remove the posting from the Civil Service exam listings.
The office could not be reached late Thursday to comment about the request.
“I want candidates with experience outside of Guilderland,” said Redlich. “We had a department that had a problem with its chief. The chief left under a cloud, which indicates there are problems. If there are problems, [Lawlor and Cox] had to know something was up.”
The police chief opening occurred last May, when Police Chief James R. Murley was forced to resign amid allegations of misconduct. Lawlor has been interim police chief since then.
When asked whom he would back for the $85,000- to $90,000-a-year position, Runion said: “I don’t have a recommendation at this point because I don’t have all the qualified candidates.”
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