Two city firefighters have had their promotions rescinded amid talk of long-ago drug offenses.
Capt. Vincent Krawiecki and firefighter Michael Stanley were publicly informed two weeks ago that they had won promotions, but later that same day, word came down from City Hall that Krawiecki’s move to deputy chief and Stanley’s rise to lieutenant had been rescinded.
Union president Alan Tygert said no reason was given.
“They announced them, and later that day, they were put on hold,” he said. “They didn’t say why.”
But firefighters said the reason was obvious. They believe the mayor didn’t want to promote officers with drug violations in their past over those without such blemishes.
Krawiecki pleaded guilty in 1988 to charges of helping to distribute 200 pounds of cocaine to buyers in the Lake George area. He was arrested along with 15 other people, many of whom worked with him as state prison guards in Comstock. All of them were described as cocaine dealers and addicts by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack McCann.
Krawiecki served about 18 months in a federal prison, was later hired by the Schenectady Fire Department and rose through the ranks without apparent problems.
Tygert said perhaps other mayors weren’t as concerned by Krawiecki’s history.
“It’s a different administration — I guess they look at it differently,” he said.
Stanley’s history is more recent. Five years ago, according to sources in the fire department, he was one of the first firefighters to run afoul of the department’s new drug testing policy. He was suspended for failing a drug test, but Tygert said he has served admirably ever since.
“In the five years since then, he’s stellar,” Tygert said. “There’s punishment in our contract, and that was fulfilled. At some point, you have to look at their full career. I’m sure there’s pluses and minuses in everybody. Both of them are fine candidates.”
Stratton declined to discuss his decision, except to say that the promotions were never finalized, even though they were announced publicly. He must approve promotions before they officially take effect.
He also would not discuss whether he has a policy about promoting employees with past drug violations.
“We’re looking for the most qualified person for every position,” he said, “the individual who can do the best possible job.”
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett also would not discuss any policy regarding drug violations, but said, “The bottom line is this: We will do things in the best interest of the city, period.”
Firefighters have drawn their own conclusions, and many of them are pleased by the rescinded promotions.
“The mayor stepped in and refused to promote them,” said one firefighter who requested anonymity because he had not been authorized to discuss the issue. “Mike Stanley was one of the first snagged when the drug tests began. Why not pick someone who hasn’t failed? Pick someone who hasn’t got that history.”
The mayor can choose among the top scorers on civil service exams for each promotional grade. Stanley made the list with a score of 84, but five others scored higher and one tied his score. On the list for deputy chief, Krawiecki scored third with an 84.
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