Following Commissioner Corcoran’s Sudden Departure, Public Safety Model Faces Scrutiny
By Tom McDermott
Rye’s Commissioner of Public Safety Michael C. Corcoran abruptly resigned on June 26. Asked to comment, City Manager Marcus Serrano would say only that Corcoran gave him a letter of resignation and “wanted to spend more time with his family.” Asked if the departure was due, as widely rumored, to Corcoran’s not being a resident of Westchester or an adjoining county, as is required of the job, Serrano declined to comment.
Corcoran has not responded to messages.
Serrano suggested that the “personal nature” of Corcoran’s departure prevented him from commenting further, and the public nature of a Commissioner’s role did not change that policy.
Corcoran was hired as Rye’s Police Commissioner in December 2015. Less than a year later, the City Council amended the City Charter and created the position of Commissioner of Public Safety, with the police and fire departments under Corcoran’s command. His arrival in Rye seemed to raise morale and energize the police department, and helped lead to improved communication with the community, especially in regard to the prevention of drug abuse.
There are indications that Corcoran’s leadership style was not universally liked within the police department, but Serrano said that he was not aware of any internal discord within RPD that might have been a factor in Corcoran’s resignation.
Immediately upon Corcoran’s departure, Serrano appointed longtime RPD Lieutenant Robert Falk as interim Public Safety Commissioner. This week, Falk told the paper, “I don’t see any immediate changes on the horizon at the Police Department, which is running smoothly. I will just manage it.” Falk added that he was spending much of his time becoming familiar with Rye Fire Department.
Mayor Josh Cohn and other members of the City Council had no comment beyond acknowledging that Corcoran had resigned. The matter was not brought up at the July 11 City Council meeting.
After Corcoran’s resignation, former City Councilman Terry McCartney’s commented that “I was shocked and saddened at the news of Commissioner Corcoran’s departure. He was one of the City’s very best employees. He was an excellent leader. He was always available and responsive to the City Council and the community. It is a shame that we could lose someone of his importance without an explanation from the Council.”
This week, the City Manager confirmed that he had not yet begun a search for a new Commissioner of Public Safety and could not say when one might begin.
When asked about the delay, Mayor Cohn responded, “I think the City Manager is just letting the dust settle a little, and he is very comfortable with Robert Falk’s performance thus far.”
Asked if the delay might also indicate the Council’s interest in revisiting the 2016 change made to the City Charter to create a Department of Public Safety, Cohn added, “It is not clear to me that the Public Safety Commissioner model is right for Rye, with our small fire and police departments. Our year-and-a-half under a Public Safety Commissioner seems to have accelerated our loss of volunteer firefighters. The financial implications for the City are very worrying if we are unable to maintain a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters who have been an important part of the community for years. I think the Council should give thought to the question of whether or not the Public Safety model is good for Rye.”
Cohn also put to rest rumors regarding the County Police force replacing RPD, calling it nonsense. “No one on the Council has raised this idea and no one is interested in it.”
Meanwhile, rumors persist that Corcoran was presented with documented evidence that he was not, in fact, on the job at either the Police or Fire departments during all the hours he claimed; and, further, that the Rockland County address he provided to the City was questionable.