Two candidates vying for the open chief of police position in Guilderland have served notice they may sue the town over comments posted by a Guilderland Town Board member on a Web site.
Acting Chief Carol Lawlor and Lt. Curtis Cox contend comments made by Councilman Warren Redlich, a Republican, indicate he would deny them the promotion to the chief’s position for political reasons.
On a Times Union’s political blog, Redlich referred to the two officers as political flunkies. The Feb. 7 post also said that one candidate for chief had eight lawn signs on his property supporting the Democrats in the fall elections.
`He was also reported to be at the Dems’ election night event. The appearance of court officials and police administration at a partisan event does not bode well for Guilderland,` wrote Redlich.
Lawlor, a 30-year veteran of the department, has served as acting chief since former Chief James Murley retired amid misconduct charges in May. Cox is second in command within the department.
`I did not think it was going to be a fair interview process with Mr. Redlich taking part in it,` said Lawlor of the decision to obtain an attorney. She and Cox have hired Paul A. Clyne, a former Albany County District Attorney now in private practice, to represent them. In early February, Clyne sent a letter to the town warning of likely legal action.
`There is a very real possibility that we would take some steps against any and all members of the town board that expressed some animus based on political affiliation,` said Clyne, who referred to the New York State Labor Law that prohibits an employer from discriminating against individuals for political activities or beliefs. Clyne said the posting of political lawn signs is his clients’ First Amendment right.
`That’s their business and really, under the law, can’t be used as a basis to deny someone promotion,` said Clyne.
Both Lawlor and Cox are scheduled to the take the promotion-class Civil Service exam March 8. If they pass, both would be eligible for the position. The town board appoints the police chief, who earns a salary between $84,000 and $92,000.
Redlich doesn’t deny writing the posts but points to accusations on the blog that he too was lobbying for his own candidate.
`They’re claiming that I’m saying something bad of the candidates when I was accused of having an inside candidate. I don’t. How could I? We only have two votes,` he said, referring to the Democrat-dominated Town Board.
Redlich said he also received a letter from Supervisor Ken Runion asking him to recuse himself from voting on the appointment of the police chief — a move he won’t consider.
`They have three votes, we have two,` he said. `They can hire who they want to hire. My vote won’t matter.`
Runion was unavailable for comment.
While he has nothing against the two internal candidates, Redlich said, he and his Republican counterpart Mark Grimm are merely pushing for a more open hiring process.
`We haven’t even had a conversation about what kind of candidate we are looking for,` said Redlich. `He (Runion) is going to give us one candidate, up or down vote.`
The two Republican Town Board members have criticized the supervisor for posting the job on the Albany County civil service Web site and listing it is a promotional position without the board’s knowledge.
Redlich and Grimm have said they believe the word `promotional` implies only candidates from within the department will be considered, rather than broadening the search.
The posting has reportedly attracted two other outside candidates, according to published reports.
The town has hired its own legal counsel should any litigation ensue. Claudia Ryan will represent the town at an hourly rate of $175 an hour and a retainer not to exceed $2,650.“