Democratic candidates for City Council, Meg Cameron and Shari Punyon, circulated a press release this week calling for the hiring of an interim Police Commissioner and stating that they are opposed to the hiring of a new Police Commissioner before “the new City Council is seated and the City Manager issue is resolved.”
By Tom McDermott
Democratic candidates for City Council, Meg Cameron and Shari Punyon, circulated a press release this week calling for the hiring of an interim Police Commissioner and stating that they are opposed to the hiring of a new Police Commissioner before “the new City Council is seated and the City Manager issue is resolved.” They also called for a complete review of the Police Department to start an overall review of all City operations.
Rye’s current Police Commissioner William Connors announced his intention to retire effective January 16 after 13 years serving in his post. In an apparent reference to City Manager Scott Pickup’s management of Rye Golf Club while its manager allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, and other performance issues, the release also stated, “Our city government may be very different in 2014, and only then, when the city manager position is resolved, should Mr. Pickup or his successor choose a commissioner.”
Cameron and Punyon questioned what it termed “the City Council’s plan to have Pickup appoint a new police commissioner before the end of the year.” The City Council, at their September 11 meeting, asked Pickup to engage a search firm to assist with finding candidates for the Commissioner’s and Rye Golf Club Manager’s jobs.
At that meeting, Councilman and Republican mayoral candidate Joe Sack seemed to go along with the plan for Pickup to engage a search firm, but thought that speed was of the essence in filling the Golf Club job since “nobody was in charge” there, while the Rye Police Department is filled with professionals who can sustain it during a longer search.
Asked to comment on the wording of Cameron and Punyon’s proposal, which he had not yet read, Sack said, “It was certainly not my understanding that he [Pickup] would appoint a Commissioner before the end of the year, and certainly he should not hire someone.” Sack also said that his personal opinion, which he shared with Pickup after the meeting, was that “we shouldn’t start the Police Commissioner search until January.”
Under the City Charter, a City Manager may appoint a Police Commissioner without City Council approval. But, as Councilman Peter Jovanovich, who is running for mayor as an independent, pointed out, “Scott talked at the Council meeting about organizing a citizens’ committee to assist in hiring a new Commissioner, and coming back to discuss that at a future meeting.”
Jovanovich also said that the Council had only “authorized the City Manager to select a recruiting firm to start the search process” for a new Police Commissioner. He added that the City Manager thought the search process would take months to complete, and was unlikely to conclude before January even if begun now.
He continued, “It doesn’t make sense to me to wait until January to begin to search. That way, we might not have a new Commissioner until mid-summer.”
Pickup was away and unavailable for comment before press time.
Asked about the claim that the Council had a plan for Pickup to appoint a new Commissioner before a new Council takes office, Cameron granted that the language of the release was “technically” incorrect, and that the Council only authorized hiring a search firm.
Regarding the proposal for “the City” to hire an interim Commissioner, she clarified that meant the City Manager. And, asked if that interim Commissioner should come from within the current force, she said that “was a possibility.” As to the RPD operations review, Cameron said that, if elected, she and Punyon would need to persuade the Council to implement City operations reviews, and did not know how long a review of the police Department would take to complete.