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Police promotion raises hackles

Patrolman caught in middle

By Matthew Bruun TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


LEOMINSTER— A proposed police promotion on the City Council agenda tonight could rekindle a smoldering debate on police staffing and mayoral powers, a dispute that has already found its way into court.

Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella has recommended that Police Officer Richard J. Kinney be promoted to sergeant. The promotion would not fill a vacancy, but would create an eighth sergeant’s post in the department.

The council last fall made a public show of backing the police union and Chief Peter F. Roddy when it adopted a resolution directing Mr. Mazzarella to fill a vacant lieutenant’s post. The mayor has not done so, and is being challenged in court by the union.

The debate tonight raises the issue again, this time with Officer Kinney’s professional future in the mix.

“The question is going to be whether we want to hurt somebody and let the mayor have his way, or do we want to stand our ground,” Council President Robert A. Salvatelli said Saturday. “Each councilor is going to have to make up his own mind.”

“We are put into a situation that we need to look at what’s best for the Police Department, what’s going to help the Police Department, and we have to look at the appointee,” Councilor James J. Lanciani Jr. said Saturday.

Mr. Lanciani chairs the Ways and Means Committee, which must make a recommendation on the appointment to the full council.

Mr. Mazzarella said the issue is not that complicated.

“It puts them in a spot where they should do the right thing,” the mayor said yesterday. “We should maintain the management rights of the city.”

To give in to the superior officers’ union, the mayor said, would be to cede management authority.

The union representing the city patrolmen, meanwhile, is backing Officer Kinney’s bid for promotion.

“Rich got caught in a political mess,” patrolmen’s union president Officer Daniel M. Proietti said Saturday. “He really is a good guy, and it’s unfortunate he got stuck in this situation.”

Officer Proietti said the sergeant’s post should be filled, and Officer Kinney has earned the promotion.

Mr. Mazzarella said it is within his powers to fund supervisory positions at the Police Department. He has maintained that fewer lieutenants and more sergeants could handle the duties.

The superior officers’ union is challenging the mayor’s stance in court, and has also asked Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte’s office to investigate whether the mayor can appropriate money that had been slated for a lieutenant’s post to another job.

Mr. Mazzarella said he had received word from the district attorney to move on as the matter is explored.

“I’m not going to hold up running the city,” he said yesterday. “When you put somebody’s name before the council, they are limited in why they can turn somebody down. You can’t just bypass someone for no reason. They will have their own problems if they turn him down.”

Mr. Mazzarella predicted that Officer Kinney will appeal to the Civil Service Commission if he is not promoted, and also predicted he would prevail.

“There is no reason to hold up this thing,” he said.

Police Lt. Raymond A. Booth, president of the superior officers’ union, chided the mayor for forwarding Officer Kinney’s name for promotion for a position that does not yet exist, even as the legal challenge over the vacant lieutenant’s post continues.

With a new civil service list of prospective sergeants in the works, Lt. Booth said, Officer Kinney’s standing at the top of the promotions list will vanish. The officer did not take the latest exam, and the next exam could be two years away, he said.

In effect, several observers said, Officer Kinney, with more than a decade of service in the department, could be years away from getting a promotion if he does not get it now.

Lt. Booth said it is the mayor’s fault that Officer Kinney is in this situation.

“We wish no ill will to Rich Kinney or his family,” Lt. Booth said. “The fault lies within the confines of the mayor’s office.”

The issue has hurt morale at the Police Department, Lt. Booth said, since eliminating the lieutenant’s job reduces the possibility of advancement for other officers.

“Morale here is beyond nonexistent, and it goes back to him,” Lt. Booth said. “He has no expertise running the Police Department. That’s what you pay Peter Roddy for.”

Mr. Salvatelli said the easiest solution would be for the mayor to appoint Sgt. Michael D. Goldman to the vacant lieutenant’s post, with Officer Kinney then climbing the ranks to sergeant.

“Everything would be kosher,” Mr. Salvatelli said Saturday. “Everything would be perfect.”

Officer Proietti agreed the matter could have been resolved amicably had Mr. Mazzarella appointed Sgt. Goldman to the lieutenant’s post years ago.

Sgt. Goldman appealed the mayor’s last lieutenant’s appointment to the Civil Service Commission, and has since reached a settlement that says he will receive the next available promotion to that rank.

Mr. Mazzarella has been unwavering in his stance on staffing, citing the city solicitor’s interpretation of the staffing ordinance in declaring his powers to appoint as he sees fit.

The mayor also said Lt. Booth was motivated by personal reasons. Filling the vacant post would move him to the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, instead of the 3 to 11 p.m. shift he now works, Mr. Mazzarella said

“He has a personal gain here,” the mayor said.

Lt. Booth denied that last night.

“I could have left last February,” he said, pointing out he had already reached his maximum pension eligibility. “What’s right is right. I’m sticking around to do what is right for the guys.”
 

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O.K.
So Officer Kinney did NOT take the last promotional exam, and therefore there is now an exigency for the mayor to appoint him, cuz the list (with him at the top) will expire soon?
:-k
Looks like Kinney could have avoided putting everybody in the spotlight by taking the last exam?
:wink:
 

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No, the Mayor could have avoided this problem by promoting Sgt. Goldman to Lieutenant. Then there would have been an opening to make a Sgt. and Kinney would get his stripes. The Mayor should have done the right thing in the beginning, and he alone could have prevented this mess. Now he's pitting the two unions against each other.
 

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Se7en";p="56725 said:
No, the Mayor could have avoided this problem by promoting Sgt. Goldman to Lieutenant. Then there would have been an opening to make a Sgt. and Kinney would get his stripes. The Mayor should have done the right thing in the beginning, and he alone could have prevented this mess. Now he's pitting the two unions against each other.
If there is an open Lieutenants position that sounds like the most reasonable thing to do and everything works out fine. No bad press or morale going lower than it sounds like already. Isn't this the mayor that was on the job as an officer and has been causing problems since he got elected?
 
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