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Lancaster appoints police officer: Part II: Resident and board comments
By Lee Chowaniec
Jul 18, 2012, 23:44
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Prior to the town board voting on pre-filed resolution, the public is given an opportunity to address the board on any resolution. Resident Mike Fronczak took that opportunity to address the board on Resolution #10, the hiring of a new police officer to fill a retirement vacancy.

Resident Mike Fronczak

Fronczak: “Council member Stempniak, you are the one sponsoring the hiring resolution, yet it Councilman Ron Ruffino who serves on the safety committee. Why aren’t you sponsoring the resolution Mr. Ruffino? “

Councilman Ruffino: “Because it falls under personnel and Ms. Stempniak is on the personnel committee. It is not my responsibility to sponsor the resolution.”

Fronczak: “With a process that goes on like this, with everyone relying on the Chief Gill, that we don’t know the process, that you don’t have any hard facts, how do we vote on this resolution? It would be like hearsay in a court of law. Everyone is going on someone else’s word without having the facts.”

Town Attorney John Dudziak interjected and told Fronczak that Chief Gill is a civil service expert and communicated his reasons for the hire choice with the town board.”I ask you then, are you insinuating that Chief Gill did something immoral or illegal as far as the process is concerned? The board appointed Gill Chief of police, a former law professor, and current attorney?

Fronczak: “I am not insinuating that. What I am saying here is that board members are voting on a project that they don’t actually seem clear about; not that the right process was followed, but that we don’t actually know what the process is.”

Dudziak: “I think Councilman Abraham articulated it right out of the civil service text book.”

Fronczak: “We are hearing that three candidates should have been interviewed and only two were. Is that something that needs to be done, interviewing three candidates, not two?”

Dudziak: “No.” Actually Chief Gill doesn’t have to explain to the board or anyone else who he is going to pick.. It’s the board’s job to consummate that decision and to ratify it. Unfortunately, that’s the power the Chief of Police has. It is no different as to who he hires as a Lieutenant or Captain. They take it out of the board’s hands for that purpose so that issues like this will not arise.”

Fronczak: “Thank you for that information. I guess Chief Gill is the want to talk to on this matter. Are we able to find out who the person was that scored the only 100 and whether this person is a Lancaster resident?”

Fudoli: “I think what he is asking is if any of the candidates that took the test were at the academy yet, right?”

Capt. Marco Laurienzo: “There is nobody that is certified.”

Fudoli: “So there is nobody yet that has been to the academy yet; just those that passed the test and are qualified for the position. All the residents that were canvassed were town residents, I believe.”

Resident Kevin Carriere

Carriere: “My experience with the Giza family goes all the way back to elementary school days. One of the things that strikes me through the years is that the family is very community service oriented. Bob, Bob Jr. and his other son Ron have spent a lot of time helping others in the community."

“I taught Ron Jr. He was an honor roll student in high school, graduated from Buff State with a degree in art. I can’t speak highly enough about Ron Jr. and the family. They are outstanding people. Ron Jr. was captain of the track team and an outstanding student, scoring over 1200 in the SAT’s.”

“One of the things that jumped out at me is because of his art background is that this would be a tremendous asset to wherever he goes because of his ability to draw; the ability to take a description of a suspect and to able to draw a picture of the suspect.”

Resident Dan Beutler

“I won’t beat on this subject. Having heard all the previous questions asked and the answers given, I am sure there will be questions for Chief Gill when he gets back.”

Resident Carmen Hangauer

Hangauer: “I couldn’t hear that well sitting in the back. We currently have 50 police?”

Fudoli: “There are 50 budgeted for. There are 49 and of that one unfilled position.”

Hangauer: “So by filling this position there will be 50?”

Fudoli: “No.” Captain Murphy is retiring. That is the position we are filling. We are adding an extra Lieutenant in the move and adding one patrol, but the number will remain the same at 49 (sworn officers). It will be the same size as it is today – 49, not 50.”

Hangauer: “Did you say that you Mr. Supervisor that you believed all we needed was 48?”

Fudoli: “That is what my research showed.”

Hangauer: “We are in a budget crisis. Has it come to anyone’s mind to delay this and jiggle the numbers more?”

Councilman Abraham: “We have. We are under a tight constraint as we have to get the candidate to the academy as the program starts on August 6th.

Hangauer: “So the process is really in Chief Gill’s hands; regarding what is the process, etc. That’s good to know. So, he doesn’t need to come to anyone at the town board level?”

Council member Stempniak: “I prefer not to know. I don’t want politics to be involved. I want it to be on what he (Chief Gill) bases it on.

Fudoli’s ‘no’ vote explanation

After Supervisor Dino Fudoli cast his “no” to the hiring resolution, he followed it with an explanation as to his vote.

“Something like this I take this very seriously. I believe from the residents’ discussion on the matter, they made their point very clear; and I wish to take this moment to make my point very clear. My “no” vote on this was about the process and not the candidate. Sixteen candidates were canvassed. All responded that they were interested in the job, two were interviewed. The guy that scored the perfect 100 was not interviewed in this process. I have a problem with that.”

“This is not filling seasonal part time jobs in the town parks department. This is someone who is going to carry a gun and a badge for possibly the next 30 years. So, I take this very seriously. My job responsibility as Supervisor is to protect the town residents, the safety of the rest of the police force, and the integrity of the police force. Civil service guidelines were followed as all board members have mentioned. But I think the town should explore making a policy that approves the process and how we select our police officers in the future; so that we are sure we are getting the best candidate.”

“Again, this was not about the candidate but the process. And for that reason I could not simply support this resolution.”

Public comment session

At the tail end of the meeting, the public is allowed to speak on any matter. Resident Tom Kazmierczak took the opportunity to express his feeling on the vote outcome.

“We hear that all the civil service rules were properly followed. The fact of the matter is that one individual who scored a perfect 100 on the civil service exam was not interviewed. If I was that individual who showed interest in the job, getting a job in this economy, I would be angry and bitter with this town board for not being able to get an interview in the process.”

“I could be turned down for it, because another candidate got the job. But if I were the candidate who got the job, I would want as many qualified people interviewed as possible so that I knew I got the job over all other qualified candidates. What this says to me is the illusion of patronage. I am sorry to have to say that.”

Council member Donna Stempniak: “You talked about the candidate that scored 100 and why the Supervisor said that candidate was not interviewed…”

Supervisor Fudoli: “He was not interviewed.”

Capt. Laurienzo: “Everyone was canvassed. Everyone was given an application. All the applications were received. The top two candidates were interviewed. You threw out the number that 15-17 qualified. It wasn’t, it was 12.

Fudoli: “Let’s not skirt the issue here. You have a responsibility as a town board to do your homework.”

Stempniak: “And we did. We inquired from the Chief and I have …”

Fudoli: “You have the obligation to ask questions, Donna (Stempniak). When I spoke to you, you didn’t even know the answers.”

Stempniak: “Because I might have believed in the process.”

Fudoli: “Your job as a member of the town board is to represent the taxpayers”

Stempniak: “I asked and it’s not our job.”

Fudoli: “It is your job to be responsible to the taxpayers. It is time for the board to be responsible to the taxpayers.”

Capt. Laurienzo: “I believe the Chief was being responsible to the taxpayers. It was not a simple process.”

Fudoli: “I am not accusing him of not being responsible, not following the process.”

Capt. Laurienzo: “It sounds like you are accusing him of not following the process.”

Fudoli: “I am not accusing the Chief. I am accusing the board for not doing their job.”

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