WILKES-BARRE — As Mayor Tony George continues to look outside the police department for new leadership, he named someone from within to fill in temporarily for retired chief Marcella Lendacky.
Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay will oversee the department for the time being, said city Administrator Ted Wampole.
Wampole Monday said residents should be assured that “we’re very confident with Commander Coffay running the day-to-day operations.”
Coffay, who joined the department in 1991, had been a detective and captain before being named to one of the two commander posts during the previous administration of Mayor Tom Leighton.
Coffay, who earns $82,154-a-year, also fared well in a the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association’s review of the department and accompanying report that led to Lendacky’s exit and the demotion of Commander of Patrol Ron Foy to detective.
The report stated Lendacky and Foy lacked the professional qualifications for their jobs. On the other hand, in the PCPA’s opinion Coffay had the college education and experience that qualified him for consideration of a senior administrator’s post. More importantly, the report stated Coffay was viewed within the department ”as a supportive leader who provides guidance and instructions without belittling.”
The search is still underway for a chief and as of last week the mayor had been in discussions with two finalists from the 13 candidates who applied. Pay and benefits were sticking points in the talks.
“The mayor has not closed the process,” Wampole said Monday.
Lendacky’s last day was Sunday, ending a nearly 30-year career. She joined the force in March 1989 and held the appointed position of chief for a little more than two years. The job paid an annual salary of $95,481 plus benefits.
On April 4 Lendacky informed the mayor that she would retire. Her notice coincided with the release to city officials of the PCPA’s report. The PCPA was paid $26,212 to review the department and provide recommendations to resolve the discord Lendacky and Foy caused with the rank-and-file officers represented by the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association.
“Mismanagement has created an environment where a lack of direction, uncertain expectations, inconsistent and harsh discipline, and generally flawed administrative processes have fostered contention and distrust between Department Administration and the PBA,” the report said.
The report recommended that senior-level command posts within the department have proven skills of team building, fostering trust and confidence and that they lead by example. It did not call for the removal of Lendacky and Foy, however.
Last month the mayor eliminated Foy’s $82,154-a-year job in a departmental restructuring and demoted him to detective, a $71,063-a-year position he held before his appointment to commander in July 2016. The union filed a grievance over Foy’s return.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.