W-B Mayor Extends Search For New City Police Chief
WILKES-BARRE — Mayor Tony George is extending his search for a new police chief beyond the ranks of the city police department.
George’s office issued a news release late Thursday afternoon announcing that the city is conducting a search to fill the position, which is currently held by embattled Chief Marcella Lendacky, who is set to retire June 3.
George announced Lendacky’s intent to retire on April 4 — the same day his administration released to council and the police union a scathing report on the police department’s operations and leadership following an assessment by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.
George’s assistant, Tyler Ryan, said the position is being advertised this weekend in two local newspapers, including The Citizens’ Voice; on the city’s website; and with the Pennsylvania Municipal League, which will post the job on its Municipal Jobs Junction website.
Applications will be accepted through May 8.
The job opening also was “posted internally” earlier Thursday afternoon, as it was emailed to all police, fire and city hall employees, city Administrator Ted Wampole said when questioned about the position at Thursday night’s council meeting.
During public comment, residents John Suchoski and Angel Jirau both said they think the mayor should consider candidates from “outside the area.”
According to state statute — namely, the Third Class City Code — the chief “shall be designated by the mayor from within the ranks” of the police department.
But, if “no qualified officer from within the ranks has applied for such designation, the chief of police shall be designated by the mayor from without the ranks,” the code states.
The code does not specify what would make an officer qualified for the position.
George did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Who’s qualified remains at question
City Attorney Tim Henry said he’s “not going to say yes or no at this point” on whether the mayor must hire an applicant from within the department if someone who is qualified applies.
“I’m still researching case law that interprets provisions of Third Class City Code as they pertain to home rule municipalities,” Henry said.
Henry is also “still looking into” how it’s determined if a candidate is qualified.
“Qualified … applicants should forward a cover letter and resume that includes positions held, education, experience, history of policing responsibilities and accomplishments” to the city administrator, the news release states.
The release also states that job duties and qualifications can be found on the city’s Human Resources web page.
Among the qualifications listed are possessing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration or related field “or equivalent law enforcement experience” and/or being a graduate of “an advanced training course such as the FBI National Academy, Northwestern University School of Staff and Command, the Southern Police Institute or other recognized and equivalent law enforcement training.”
The bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and the examples of advanced training courses were specifically noted as lacking from Lendacky’s training and education in the Chiefs of Police Association assessment report.
in job posting
Wampole said 30 recommendations contained in the chiefs association assessment report were incorporated into the job posting duties and qualifications.
Council and the administration commissioned the assessment in November after growing discord between Lendacky and the police union during her nearly two years as the department’s top cop.
Arbitration costs during that time topped $132,000.
Union officials claimed Lendacky, Patrol Division Commander Ron Foy and George were retaliating against union members for questioning their directives and actions.
George has denied any retaliation and said officers were unhappy because Lendacky was doling out discipline when officers weren’t doing their jobs.
Lendacky has said many of the other departmental problems existed before she took the job and she didn’t have time to address them because dealing with labor complaints took too much of her time.
The 10-week-long chiefs assessment, which cost taxpayers $26,212, attributed most of the problems to Lendacky’s lack of executive/leadership training, unfamiliarity with certain best practices, and her “autocratic” leadership style.
The salary for the post is listed as “negotiable.” Lendacky’s salary is set at $95,481, according to the city budget. She has been with the department for nearly 30 years.
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ON THE WEB
The job posting and qualifications for the Wilkes-Barre Chief of Police position can be found at: http://bit.ly/2r2K2Zv