Effort to block raises for Schenectady police command staff amid pandemic deficit rejected

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford in a file photo 

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford in a file photo 

SCHENECTADY — An attempt to block pending raises for city Police Chief Eric Clifford and his top command staff fizzled Monday night.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo wanted the City Council to study and revise City Code to put the decision of negotiating raises for administration officials squarely into lawmaker hands — not City Hall.

But the effort fell apart on Monday after a straw poll revealed the measure wouldn’t pass out of committee.

The effort would have required an extraordinarily quick timeline, including advertising and holding a public hearing before the budget vote, which City Council President John Mootooveren set for Oct. 26.

City Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin said Perazzo’s attempt would legally be permissible under City Code.

Clifford and his three assistant chiefs are poised to receive raises under Mayor Gary McCarthy’s proposed budget, including a 12-percent bump for Clifford, from $143,492 to $161,565.

Assistant chiefs would be boosted from $139,630 to $157,703 annually.

Department heads and non-union employees would not see increases.

Perazzo said the effort was not a referendum on police performance, but rather a matter of prudence as the city attempts to close a $10.1 million deficit, which includes laying off 16 employees and eliminating 47 vacant positions.

“This is purely monetary in a time when we’re squeezing every penny and have potential for many, many people to lose their jobs,” Perazzo said.

City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield agreed.

“I really think it’s worth taking a look at,” she said.

City Councilman John Polimeni opposed the measure, citing concerns over the ramifications of reversing agreements with city employees.

“If I was a city worker, I’d be very concerned about this,” said Polimeni, who pointed out the raises will be staggered over four years, and is not a lump sum.

Others, including city Councilwoman Carmel Patrick, expressed concerns about obtaining all of the necessary information in such a compressed timeframe to weigh the changes.

Public criticism of the increases dominated feedback submitted by the public at last week’s public hearing.

The proposed hikes are the result of a settlement with the city police union and include four years of raises in addition to longevity increases that are a component of how salaries are calculated.

Command staff salaries are based off of the highest-ranking PBA member’s top pay salary.

In the city Police Department, that would be lieutenants, as the department does not have captains.

Clifford was on the call as lawmakers debated the issue but didn’t comment.

McCarthy called the proposed raises “adequate and fair,” citing the level of skill and training for city police.

Under the mayor’s proposed spending plan, nine vacant patrol officer jobs would remain unfilled, and a crime analyst position cut.

A series of meetings designed to weigh reforms to the city Police Department is scheduled to kick off on Wednesday. Officials, however, have not yet released details on how the sessions will be broadcast to the public.

McCarthy indicated the meetings will be made available, but said he didn’t have the details.

“People will be available to view them,” McCarthy said.

Porterfield also asked McCarthy to provide a list of groups who are confirmed to be participating in the process.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

William Marincic October 21, 2020
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Vince as you know if we had republicans and independents running this city this would be a non issue and it will always be bad times with a democrat administration. They deserve the raise and they should receive it.

VINCENT J RIGGI October 20, 2020
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Bill, for the record, I did speak up then and voted no on those budgets in 18 and 19. And it was Gary McCarthy as council president who was behind that change back around 2009. I don’t disagree with the reason why at that time but these are very different times and everyone must tighten their belts for the time being. This is only my opinion that I am entitled to as you are entitled to yours and I respect you for that opinion but must respectfully disagree.

William Marincic October 20, 2020
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Vince, from my understanding this change was done by Mayor Stratton as a way to avoid large buyouts upon retirement for police and fire command staff. Not sure how you equate it to be a “perk” when it is actually earned raises. Were you on the City Council when this was approved? Were you on the city council in 2018 & 2019 when public safety managers did not receive raises despite all other department heads receiving them? Wonder why you never spoke up then. I have always supported you Vince but you are wrong here.

LEESA PERAZZO October 20, 2020
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Thank you, Vince. We have a potential for some to have to give up everything while others benefit. I just don’t get it. Your voice is missed on the Council.

VINCENT J RIGGI October 20, 2020
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Good try Leesa and you were on solid ground. That perk was created by legislation when the mayor was council president and can be changed by legislation. These are trying times and as we have heard over and over ‘we’re all in this together” apparently to the council majority it’s only a usable catchphrase when it pertains to Job loss along with tax and fee hikes.