Schenectady will have three assistant police chiefs next year — instead of two — but who will replace Mark Chaires as chief remains to be seen.
The City Council on Wednesday voted to reinstate an assistant police chief’s position that had originally been eliminated in the 2013 budget.
Council President Denise Brucker said council members initially didn’t think more than two assistant chiefs were needed. Currently there are four assistant chiefs. One heads up investigation, another patrol, one personnel and another administration.
“We felt it was top heavy at the time,” she said.
However, Chaires and Mayor Gary McCarthy asked for the job to be restored because of the heavy workload. Chaires, who was not at the meeting, sent a letter to the council, urging restoration of an assistant chief’s position.
Chaires said earlier in the day that an assistant chief handles training, which is particularly important to him to prevent police officers from going off on the wrong track.
“A lot of Schenectady’s problems had to do with HR stuff,” he said, referring to human resources.
An assistant chief also applies for grants and manages the vehicle fleet. The department is also trying to get full accreditation and an assistant chief helps with that process.
Brucker said the council wants to see progress on specific goals that the new chief will develop. Two of her goals would be to reduce the amount of outstanding arrest warrants and collect more outstanding parking fines — estimated at almost $2 million.
Brucker said there was no net impact to the budget by restoring the position because the police department found the funds within its budget.
This brings back the job of Assistant Chief Jack Falvo, who was going to be demoted to lieutenant because of the budget cut. He is in charge of personnel management.
Chaires is retiring Sunday and on Monday will start his new position as executive director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center. He takes over for Doretha “Penny” Holmes, who is leaving to become director of the after school program Ark Inc. and director of marketing and outreach for the Ark Community Charter School in Troy.
Brucker said she did not know who is going to fill Chaires’ spot. That decision falls to Mayor Gary McCarthy, who was not at the meeting. She estimated that the decision would come sooner rather than later.
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett could run the department temporarily if the new chief isn’t in place on Jan. 1.
Assistant chiefs Brian Kilcullen, Patrick Leguire and Michael Seber are vying to replace Chaires. McCarthy has stressed that he wants the next police chief to live in the city. None of those three do.
Although Kilcullen has been an assistant chief longer than Leguire, he has been with the department for fewer years and has less seniority. If he does not become police chief, he would be bumped down to lieutenant on Jan. 1.
In other business, the council heard from representatives of the group Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change (SLIC), who said that the city is over-enforcing building codes.
Chris Morris, meeting coordinator for SLIC, contended that officials in St. Paul, Minn. also had a very rigid building code and it was essentially using violations to collect revenues. Because the cost of complying with these tough codes was too burdensome on landlords, they refused to do the work and the buildings fell into further disrepair.
“This results in run-down, decaying property,” he said.
Those landlords who did comply were forced to raise the rents, which hurt minorities and those on fixed incomes.
The matter resulted in a court case that went all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Fellow SLIC member Mohamed Hafez said a better approach would be to implement what St. Paul did, and create a problem properties program to go after some of the worst code violators.
Brucker said afterward that she encouraged people to report problems with individual code officers so city officials can see if there is a pattern of complaints.