The past has returned to haunt two firefighters, whose promotions were rescinded two weeks ago amid talk of long-ago drug activity.
The day started well for Capt. Vincent Krawiecki and firefighter Michael Stanley, who were publicly informed that they had won promotions.
But before 5 p.m., word came down from City Hall to cancel Krawiecki’s move to deputy chief and Stanley’s rise to lieutenant.
Firefighters 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 activity in their past over those without such marks.
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 addicts as well as dealers by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack McCann.
Krawiecki served about 18 months in a federal prison. Then he was hired by the Schenectady Fire Department and rose through the ranks without apparent problems.
Tygert said that the mayors who approved Krawiecki’s hiring and previous promotions might not have been as concerned by the man’s criminal history.
“It’s a different administration — I guess they look at it differently,” Tygert said. It was unclear when Krawiecki joined the department.
Stanley’s drug-related 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 new drug testing policy. He was suspended for failing a drug test, but Tygert said he has served admirably 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.”
Mayor Brian U. Stratton declined to discuss his decision, except to say that the promotions were never finalized even though word was circulated. He must approve promotions before they become official.
He also would not discuss whether he has a policy about promoting employees with drug histories.
“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 promotion 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,” one firefighter said happily. He 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 in the Civil Service firefighter 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.
Until Stratton makes a decision, the department is using overtime to fill the position of riding chief, which is vacant because of a recent retirement, Tygert said. The expected scenario is for one of the deputy chiefs to move to riding chief, leaving a vacancy among the deputies. To fill that, the mayor would promote a captain, and then pick among the lieutenants to move someone up to captain. A firefighter would then be chosen to become lieutenant.
Tygert said it’s important that the promotions occur soon.
“They should’ve done it last week,” he said.
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