WILKES-BARRE — Contrary to Mayor Tony George’s thinking, the police union wasn’t happy with his decision to send a demoted commander back to his former position of detective.
The Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association responded with a grievance Friday when the mayor said Ron Foy’s senior-level management position was eliminated in a restructuring of the department and he would rejoin the union.
“It seems like a vendetta,” George said Monday. “You would think when you got a new member back they’d be happy.”
The union maintained the mayor should have expected a fight since it gave George a heads up one was coming if he attempted to send Foy back into the ranks in response to the report by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.
The taxpayer-funded report released last month to city council, but kept from the public under the state Right to Know law, stated Foy and Chief Marcella Lendacky lacked the professional qualifications to hold their senior-level jobs and blamed them for the discord between the administration and the union.
The report did not call for the removal of Foy or Lendacky. But the chief gave notice she will retire on June 3 and the city has been interviewing candidates to replace her.
Sgt. Phil Myers, PBA president, said the mayor should follow the hiring process instead of using the restructuring as an excuse to find a place for Foy who took an approximate $11,100 pay cut.
“The next person on the civil service list should fill the position,” Myers said.
But the mayor defended his decision, saying the state’s Third Class City Code, a prior agreement with the union and past practice backed him up. He said prior administrations demoted police and fire personnel to lower ranks and a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the PBA in a previous labor issue authorized his action.
However, the mayor was not able to cite the specific section of the code Monday. City Attorney Tim Henry also said he would have to speak with the mayor regarding his reference to the code.
Myers said he was unsure what part of the code the mayor was referring to. He added that there was a 1996 memorandum regarding demotions, but it wasn’t on point with Foy’s case.
Under the terms of the memorandum the PBA agreed to accept someone demoted “without just cause” back to their last held union job, Myers said. The union’s position is that Foy was let go with just cause, Myers said.
Still the mayor said there was no cause and Foy’s $82,154-a-year commander job was cut in the restructuring.
Even though there is a $71,063-a-year detective’s job to be filled and he can draw from the civil service list to fill it, George said he has exercised his “prerogative” not to promote anyone and instead went with Foy.
When asked if it the grievance will further add to the city’s legal costs, the mayor said, “I do what’s right.”
Rather than refer this grievance to outside legal help, the mayor said he would have it handled in-house.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.