W-B Ready To Fill Police Vacancies
WILKES-BARRE — Mayor Tony George and police Chief Marcella Lendacky can begin filling long-vacant police officer positions as early as next week.
Oral interviews — the final step in the civil service job candidate ranking process — concluded Tuesday, and the city’s Police Civil Service Commission has compiled a ranked list of 36 candidates, according to commission Chairman Frank Majikes.
Majikes said 96 candidates took the written exam last year, and 65 of them completed it successfully with a score of 70 or higher. Thirty-six of those candidates passed a physical agility test in November, and 32 of them completed oral interviews. Four of the 36 interview-eligible candidates were hired in other municipalities.
Majikes said he expects to schedule a commission meeting next week to certify the list of candidates. He’s waiting to hear back from commission members Phil Latinski and Joe Moran on their availability.
After the list is certified, it will be sent to the mayor and police chief to be used for selecting potential hires. The list will be good for two years, Majikes said.
City Administrator Ted Wampole said the mayor intends to hire four to six officers. He said the hiring process will begin “within a reasonable amount of time” after the mayor receives the certified list of candidates.”
Wampole said there are currently 74 officers employed, including the chief, and the city budgeted for 79 in 2018. There were initially 82 positions budgeted, but the number was lowered “due to budget limitations,” he said.
The city had 76 officers on the job as of September, but since then, officer Brett Smith retired and police union Vice President Dan Duffy was fired.
It’s believed that the addition of four to six new positions will alleviate the need for some overtime in the department, which exceeded its $224,600 overtime budget by 159 percent last year, spending more than $350,000.
Police officers, including an officer who last month was informed he would receive a suspension of 45 working days, have been working overtime to fill in for manpower shortages, according to Police Benevolent Association President Sgt. Phil Myers.
Myers on Wednesday confirmed that the officer’s suspension, which would actually amount to 76 calendar days, was recently stayed by Lendacky pending a meeting with her later this week. He said she postponed the suspension after the union filed the first step in the grievance procedure.
Myers said he wasn’t sure why the suspension was postponed, and Wampole said the administration does not comment on personnel matters. Myers said he hopes it was postponed “to give reconsideration to the suspension and the contributing circumstances.”
The officer also had recently received notice of a five-day suspension, but the status of that suspension was unclear.
Myers declined to identify the officer, but he has described him as a 13-year veteran of the department with 15 years total experience in law enforcement, “is very good at his job and has not received any discipline his entire career.”
Myers said the officer has been awarded several letters of commendation, and several awards and medals for “extraordinary action in the performance of his duties.”
The officer is also a member of the police union board of directors, Myers noted.
Myers said both suspensions allegedly stem from investigations the officer handled, but union officials believe both suspensions are part of what they call a continued effort of targeting union officials, noting that the officer is a member of the union board.
At least five other officers, including Myers, have been issued suspension notices this year, and Duffy, who served as vice president of the police union, was fired after he sent an allegedly threatening email to George and Wampole. Union officials say the email was not threatening.
Myers and Duffy last month filed a federal lawsuit against the city, George, Lendacky and the chief’s second in command, Lt. Ron Foy, alleging the officials retaliated against them for raising concerns about Lendacky’s and Foy’s leadership.
At the direction of city council, the administration in November hired the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association to review the department’s operations and management. The assessment began in early December and is expected to take 10 weeks.
Contact the writer:
Divisions of the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department spent the following on overtime in 2017:
• Patrol had $100,000 budgeted and spent $207,836.
• Criminal Investigations had $81,000 budgeted and spent $99,963.
• Special Detail Services had $5,000 budgeted and spent $16,328.
• Operations had $2,600 budgeted and spent $292.
• Community Services had $1,000 budgeted and spent $3,927.
In total, the department spent $355,966 on overtime, exceeding the budgeted amount by $131,366.
Source: City of Wilkes-Barre