SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy on Tuesday said he is focusing on the city’s budget process before deciding on how to fill the post.
The commissioner’s post has been open since the August passing of longtime Commissioner Wayne Bennett.
“At this point I haven’t put a timeline on it,” McCarthy said. “I want to get through the budget to see what the council does.”
Recently, some Common Council members have questioned whether the commissioner post should be eliminated as it considers next year’s budget.
The Court of Appeals’ ruling Tuesday giving the public safety commissioner sole discretion over police discipline, however, has strengthened the need for retaining the position.
Council President Leesa Perazzo said the high court’s ruling affirms her support for the post.
“Now, certainly with this ruling, I would be in full support of having a public safety commissioner and maintaining the position,” Perazzo said.
McCarthy said he has left the position open to balance out money owed to Bennett for vacation and other benefits when he passed away.
In the 2018 budget as proposed by McCarthy, there is $94,000 to fund the commissioner’s post.
In the meantime, he said he doesn’t see any current disciplinary issues that would go before the commissioner.
Assuming the council continues to fund the post, McCarthy said he doesn’t see a new commissioner in place until early 2018.
He said he wants someone who has a law enforcement background, as well as experience in the criminal justice system. He also wants an understanding of collective bargaining agreements and someone who can continue the work of the department in closing out cases.
But there’s also work with other departments, such as code enforcement and economic development.
McCarthy said he wants “somebody who can be an asset on all those levels, not just the narrow areas of discipline.”
Bennett came to the department in 2007 at a time of turmoil in the department and he was credited with providing stability. He brought with him a career’s worth of experience from the state police, where he retired as superintendent.
Perazzo said she would like to see someone in the post with a law enforcement background and someone who has leadership experience.
Councilman Vince Riggi marveled at the timing of the ruling, just as the council considers the budget.
“If we didn’t win that appeal, I would say that we wouldn’t have funded the police commissioner position,” Riggi said.
But Riggi said he believes the ruling will make for a better department.
As far as Bennett’s replacement, Riggi said he looks to Bennett for the mold.
“I think he did a terrific job,” Riggi said.