SARATOGA SPRINGS – In spite of a state agency’s probe of the Police Department, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton said it’s her obligation to interview candidates and appoint the city’s next assistant police chief, even if her tenure is in its waning weeks.
Dalton was set to interview three internal candidates Thursday, a move that miffed Commissioner-elect James Montagnino.
The candidates are seeking to replace Assistant Police Chief John Catone, who’s retiring in January.
Because Dalton is in the waning weeks of her administration, and the Police Department is under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office for its treatment of Black Lives Matter activists earlier this year, Montagnino said the city should wait to appoint Catone’s successor.
Dalton is interviewing police Lt. Robert Jillson, Lt. Laura Emanation and Sgt. Paul Veitch.
Jillson, based on his raw score on the Civil Service exam administered in March, and seniority credits, registered the top overall score of 93, followed by Emanation’s score of 92, and Sgt. Paul Veitch’s 87, according to Corissa Salvo, the city’s civil service coordinator.
The other two test-takers were Lt. Sean Briscoe, who scored an 84, and Sgt. Tyler McIntosh, who scored 82.4.
Montagnino called the succession plan the “wrong move,” asserting it is “not appropriate” to promote anyone while the department is under investigation by the AG’s office.
If the Attorney General’s investigation finds that one of the current applicants for assistant chief was involved in the alleged retaliatory behavior under investigation, the city’s Police Department and Commissioner’s office could be embarrassed by a premature appointment, he said.
Only internal candidates can be considered for the assistant police chief post.
Montagnino suggested that appointing someone on an interim basis would be the better move. That way, the city could react in accordance with the AG report, he said.
Reached for comment, Dalton said in a statement:
“I am fulfilling the duties of my position as commissioner and will continue to do so over the next month. I have extended an open invitation to Jim to participate in this process and in the meantime I would encourage him to familiarize himself with New York State civil service law if he is unclear as to how candidates are selected.”
Dalton, a former Republican, did not seek re-election. Instead, she ran as an independent candidate for mayor. She lost that race last month.
She relinquishes the commissioner post on Jan. 1, the same day Montagnino, a Democrat, is sworn in.
Montagnino suggested that it should be his administration’s task to appoint the next assistant chief because Catone’s retirement takes effect at the end of January.
“There’s no vacancy at this time,” Montagnino said.
The city received correspondence from the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office concerning allegations that the police department violated state and federal law as it relates to recent BLM protests that occurred in the city.
The attorney general’s office began the investigation to assess whether the protesters were targeted with excessive force and retaliatory arrests.
More than a dozen protesters were arrested on warrants following a July protest during which they blocked traffic. The charges were levied about six weeks after the event, raising concerns the police action was retaliatory.
Meanwhile, in June, Catone participated in a press conference during which city officials infamously blamed a spike in violence on the social justice movement and suspects from Albany.
At that time, Catone said the alleged assailants aimed to provoke confrontations with local police because social justice and police reform advocates had painted the police as racist.
Asserting that notion was a lie, the 35-year veteran of the department vowed to spend his final months on the job using “every single connection my family has made over the last 130 years and I will stop your narrative.”
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.