Wilkes-Barre Mayor George: Search for new police chief on hold

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — The search for a new police chief has resumed and Mayor Tony George said this time he’s setting the pace.

“I slowed down doing it,” George said Thursday when asked about the status of replacing Marcella Lendacky. She retired June 3 with an annual pension of $73,645, serving a little more than two years after the mayor appointed her to the position.

Commander Joseph Coffay who was appointed to fill in for Lendacky has been doing an admirable job and there is no rush to remove him, George said. “I’m going to give him the opportunity to show what he can do,” the mayor said.

The city advertised for the chief’s job in April and received 13 applications from candidates within the department as well as from Northeastern Pennsylvania and across the country. A committee created by the administration reviewed the applications and conducted interviews before recommending two finalists to the mayor to choose from.

Candidates in play

Negotiations stalled earlier this month over pay and benefits, George said. They have since moved from a standstill to “on hold.” There are two final candidates, he said. One of them is a finalist and the other a candidate who “jumped back in.”

But Coffay’s performance so far has removed the urgency for naming a new chief.

“I have ‘X’ amount (to offer the candidate) and I’m not going over that,”George said. “If we were in dire straits, I might have moved it.”

The city budgeted $95,481 this year for the chief’s salary.

Lendacky, 57, left just as city officials received a report by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association that stated she lacked the professional qualifications for the senior-level post and along with another mayor appointment, former Commander Ron Foy, were responsible for the acrimony between the administration and rank-and-file officers.

The association produced the report after city council hired it at a cost of $26,212 in taxpayer funds to conduct an independent review and come up with recommendations to resolve the discord in the department. The report did not recommend that either Lendacky or Foy be removed. The mayor eliminated Foy’s $82,154-a-year position in a restructuring move and demoted him to his previous position of detective that pays approximately $11,000 less in salary.

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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.