WILKES-BARRE — A promised restructuring of the city’s police department will send Ron Foy back into the ranks as a detective, but not without a fight from the union that doesn’t want the demoted commander.
Mayor Tony George on Friday said the demotion was one of the moves he’s making after a independent review called for changes within the department.
“I’m eliminating the position,” George said of Foy’s Commander of Patrol job.
Still to be decided is whether the mayor’s going to hire a new chief or go with a public safety director once Chief Marcella Lendacky retires.
“I’m leaning toward the chief,” George said as a search is underway to replace Lendacky, his appointment more than two years ago to run the department.
Lendacky, a nearly 30-year veteran, gave notice last month she would retire on June 3. She and Foy have been in the spotlight since a report critical of their leadership reached city officials last month.
That report, by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, labeled Lendacky as an “autocratic” leader who employs a “My way or the Highway” style.
It stated she works “hand in glove” with Foy, who also is an “autocratic leader” and acts as her enforcer of “perceived performance problems and discipline.”
The report contained a list of 30 recommendations, but did not call for the removal of Lendacky and Foy.
However, the mayor’s move appears to reopen the rift with the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, which represents detectives, patrol officers, sergeants and lieutenants in the approximately 80-member department.
“He has been demoted and we will be filing a grievance (on Foy being assigned to a union position),” said Sgt. Phil Myers, PBA president.
Foy made the admission of his demotion to a Times Leader photographer during an event honoring police Friday afternoon.
City Administrator Ted Wampole, who was out of town, added by way of text message that Foy was notified by letter Friday of his demotion from his $82,514 commander’s post to detective` “as the Mayor is restructuring (the) department and eliminated a commander of patrol position.”
With Foy’s demotion, Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay is the only remaining commander below Lendacky.
The report by the chiefs group praised Coffay, a 28-year veteran who has 12 years of inter-agency experience with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The city advertised for the chief’s job, which is budgeted at $95,481-a-year plus benefits, and received 13 applications by the May 8 deadline.
The job candidates included two from within the department as well as six from out of state.
The field has been narrowed through withdrawals and interviews conducted by a panel made up of Wampole, city Attorney Tim Henry, city councilman and former city police chief Bill Barrett, and retired city Capt. Tom Merlie. The committee will recommend finalists for the mayor to choose from before Lendacky leaves.