WILKES-BARRE — A replacement for Wilkes-Barre City Police Chief Marcella Lendacky won’t be hired in time for her retirement Sunday as talks continue with two finalists for the post, Mayor Tony George said Wednesday.
George said he has not asked Lendacky to stay on until a new chief is chosen, and that Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay will run the department in the interim.
Pay and benefits are the sticking points in the discussions with the finalists who remained from the 13 candidates who initially applied for the job, George said.
“We’re in the midst of negotiations. We’ll see how that goes,” said the mayor, who has the authority to appoint someone to the position that’s budgeted this year for a salary of $95,481 plus benefits.
The job search attracted candidates from within the department, from Northeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and outside the state. They requested compensation commensurate with the professional experience and qualifications required in the job ad, according to the mayor.
The search began in April after Lendacky, a 29-year veteran of the department, gave notice she would leave June 3 in the wake of an independent review by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. In a report issued March 30, Harrisburg-based PCPA concluded Lendacky lacked the professional qualifications for the job she has held since her appointment by the mayor in March 2016.
The report also stated then-Commander of Patrol Ron Foy did not meet the professional standards commonly required by departments when hiring executive-level personnel. It added that Foy and Lendacky were responsible for the rift between the police administration and the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, the union that asked for the review to resolve the well-document discord.
The mayor eliminated Foy’s $82,154-a-year position in a departmental restructuring and, effective May 21, cut his salary by approximately $11,100 and demoted him to detective, the position he held before his appointment to commander in July 2016.
The review, which cost taxpayers $26,212, did not call for Lendacky or Foy to step down, however. .
The report listed 30 recommendations and leadership qualifications the city incorporated in its advertisement for the chief’s job. Among them were that the candidate have 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.
A committee made up of city Administrator Ted Wampole, city Attorney Tim Henry, city Councilman and former police chief Bill Barrett, and retired Wilkes-Barre Police Capt. Tom Merlie reviewed the applications, interviewed candidates and selected finalists for the mayor to make his selection.
The identities of the final two candidates have not been released.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.