WILKES-BARRE — The process of replacing outgoing Police Chief Marcella Lendacky is well underway and expected to be completed by her retirement next month, city Administrator Ted Wampole informed city council.
Wampole provided an update at the end of council’s work session, saying 13 people, all men, applied for the chief’s job by Tuesday’s deadline. Six candidates have been interviewed and one applicant withdrew to pursue an opportunity closer to home, Wampole said.
“The breakdown is that two of them are current officers in the department. One is retired from the department. Three other ones are from the area, I would say Northeastern Pa. I’ll leave it at that,” Wampole said. “We have one from Philly. And then we had six from out of state, which go as far as New Mexico, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.”
The new chief will take over a force that, for the most part, was at odds with Lendacky and Commander Ron Foy. An independent review completed in March by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association to address the departmental discord described their style of management as heavy on discipline and light on training and reflective of their lack of qualifications to hold the top positions.
Lendacky, who was appointed by Mayor Tony George to the position that pays $95,481-a-year plus benefits, gave her retirement notice the day the results of the review were provided to council. The review did not recommend that the nearly 30-year veteran step down, however.
Foy, another appointee of the mayor, remains on the force at his annual salary of $82,514 plus benefits.
In its advertisement for the chief’s post, the city followed the review’s recommendations and sought candidates with experience in policy development, community policing and leadership. In addition, they should hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration or a related field or be a graduate of an advanced law enforcement training course such as the FBI National Academy, qualifications that neither Lendacky nor Foy had.
Wampole said he is on the selection committee made up of city Attorney Tim Henry, retired Wilkes-Barre Police Capt. Tom Merlie and former city chief Bill Barrett, who also sits on council.
“So we are in the process of reviewing the applications and doing interviews,” Wampole said. When possible, the interviews are done in person. But for some out-of-state candidates, they are done by phone.
The committee will select finalists, bring them in for a second round and make a recommendation to the mayor, Wampole said.
He said the process will “absolutely” be finished by Lendacky’s planned retirement June 3.
Meanwhile, there was minimal discussion about items on the agenda for Thursday night’s public meeting:
• Reappointments of Margaret Lovecchio and Thomas Harfman, both of Hanover Street, to the Board of Health.
• Approval of a Software and Services Agreement with Kelley Ryan Parking for parking enforcement.
• Approval of a $447,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to provide primary and preventive maternal, infant and child health services.
• Awarding a $19,000 contract to A.R. Popple, of Wilkes-Barre, for the demolition of the former Academy Street Market at 121-123 Academy St.
• Approval of an agreement with the PennDOT for the installation and upgrade of a pedestrian signal at the intersection of South and South Main streets and South Main and Northampton streets. The work will be done at no cost to the city.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.