If McCarthy must hire a chief, go for the best
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy shouldn't even be talking about hiring a replacement for retiring Police Chief Mark Chaires. The city can't afford a chief as well as a public safety commissioner, and as long as Wayne Bennett stays around in his capacity as the latter, the city doesn't need the former.
Unfortunately, McCarthy seems to want both; and even worse, he seems determined not to pick anyone who isn't willing to live in the city. So he continues to balk at elevating any of three assistant chiefs who've taken and passed the civil service test for the top cop's job because they all live in the suburbs.
A long-term stalemate wouldn't bother us; the city would benefit by not having to spend $150,000-plus per year on salary and benefits. But if McCarthy can't convince one of the three assistant chiefs -- Brian Kilcullen, Patrick Leguire or Michael Seber -- to see it his way, he might go outside the department and find someone who's more willing to live in the city but who's also less qualified for the job. That would be a mistake.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Residency requirements make perfect sense in theory. Having "skin in the game" is likely to make any city employee, whether it's a police chief or rank-and-file clerical worker, that much more conscientious on the job -- whether the skin is limited to an investment like a house or includes a spouse and children as well. The problem is, moving isn't easy or cheap, especially for someone who may have had stakes in a different community for a long time.
Asking is one thing, but when it's a prerequisite for the job, it's not surprising that a lot of qualified candidates balk. And not just in Schenectady: Other communities have experienced similar difficulty with residency requirements. When that happens, it means taking someone who, by definition, is second-best: A person who was not the top choice because they were deemed less-qualified in other respects.
Residency should count for something when considering applicants for a job like police chief , but it shouldn't be an acid test.
Of course, the City Council could settle this issue, at least for the time being, by refusing to fund both the chief 's and public safety commissioner's positions. Tonight's public safety budget discussion provides the perfect opportunity.