Search for new Wilkes-Barre police chief at ‘standstill’

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
Wilkes-Barre City Police Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay continues to lead the department as the search for a new chief is now at a ‘standstill,’ according to an official. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — One of the two finalists for city police chief is no longer interested and the search to fill the job is at a “standstill,” city Administrator Ted Wampole said Friday.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Tony George said discussions with the finalists were stuck on pay and benefits. The mayor was out of the office until Monday and unavailable for comment.

Wampole declined to say that pay and benefits continue to be the issues.

“There are some sticking points that just have not been resolved, issues we’re not willing to negotiate on,” Wampole said.

“We’re basically at a standstill right now,” he added.

For confidentiality reasons, Wampole said he could not go into specifics and identify the candidates.

“One has pretty much moved on,” he said. That candidate informed the city he’s exploring other opportunities.

In the meantime, Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay is acting as officer in charge of the department since Marcella Lendacky retired June 3 from the chief’s position that paid her $95,481 a year plus benefits.

“He’s done an admirable job,” Wampole said of Coffay.

Lendacky gave notice in April of her planned exit as the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association provided city officials with a report on its assessment of the department. That report stated Lendacky lacked the professional qualifications to be a top-level manager and along with former Commander of Patrol Ron Foy was responsible for the rift between the administration and rank-and-file officers.

Foy has been demoted to detective after his $82,154-a-year commander’s job was eliminated in a restructuring of the department.

The city advertised for a new chief in April and by the May 8 response deadline attracted 13 candidates from both within the department and throughout the country. A committee reviewed the applications and interviewed candidates, eventually recommending finalists to meet and hold discussions with the mayor who has the authority to appoint department heads.

Wampole said there has been no decision yet on whether the discussions will continue. But having Coffay in place has been a big help, Wampole said.

“It gives us some time to kind of regroup.”

Wilkes-Barre City Police Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay continues to lead the department as the search for a new chief is now at a ‘standstill,’ according to an official.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL060818WBMeeting2-1.jpgWilkes-Barre City Police Commander of Investigation Joseph Coffay continues to lead the department as the search for a new chief is now at a ‘standstill,’ according to an official. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.