Schenectady mayor hopes to fill public safety boss role

Decision comes as court mulls position's responsibilities
Mayor Gary R. McCarthy at City Hall in September 2015.
Mayor Gary R. McCarthy at City Hall in September 2015.

SCHENECTADY — The city’s public safety commissioner post is expected to be included in the 2018 budget, even as the state’s highest court considers the extent of said commissioner’s power.

The job has been vacant since the previous commissioner, Wayne Bennett, died in August. While Mayor Gary McCarthy was unwilling to speculate at that time on the future of the position, he said Tuesday that he plans to include it in the proposed 2018 spending plan he’s putting together.

“We’ve got the court case pending, and I would expect to still have a public safety commissioner going forward,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said. “I believe the courts would rule in our favor, so we’d look to fill that position.”

Bennett died on Aug. 15 at age 71. He served as public safety commissioner in the city for about 10 years, where he oversaw the city’s police and fire departments.

Bennett was brought in to clean up a police department wracked by scandal and corruption. He also doled out discipline in cases involving city officers, a responsibility the city is hopeful his replacement will take on as well.

The future of that policy is dependent on a legal case being heard in the state Court of Appeals. The city and its police union each presented arguments Sept. 6 over who should control the disciplinary process in the department.

The city maintains its public safety commissioner should have exclusive power to discipline officers, while the union believes an arbitrator should decide disciplinary cases.

The case has been ongoing for several years, and a decision is expected in coming months.

The position was a source of debate during last year’s budget talks, when some council members broached the idea of eliminating the role. However, McCarthy advocated for keeping it, along with the nearly $146,000 salary Bennett earned in 2016.

McCarthy will present a budget proposal at the end of the month. The City Council will then do a line-by-line review in October and hold a public hearing before passing a final budget at the end of the month. The commissioner’s role will be part of budget discussions, McCarthy said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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