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May 25, 2014

New cop pact: No time for sergeants?

SUNBURY — Eleven months before Stephen Mazzeo was demoted from city police chief and replaced with Cpl. Brad Hare by Mayor David Persing, two small words were added to the new police contract: “Or corporals.”

Article 5 of the police contract that spanned from 2009 to 2012 read: “The mayor shall have the authority to appoint an ‘acting chief’ from the list of sergeants. This authority may be designated to the current chief of police at the discretion of the mayor. All other positions shall be filled by promotion criteria set forth in Article 6.”

When the new three-year police contract was signed June 12, 2013, it granted the mayor the ability to appoint the acting chief from “the list of sergeants or corporals.”

The small change allowed Persing to demote the popular Mazzeo and appoint Hare at the City Council meeting on May 12. The mayor cited personnel issues for the change that he would not discuss in public.

Hare will take the top spot for 90 days. The job is open and the city is accepting applications, Persing has said.

Persing was unable to be reached for comment by deadline.

At the time of the new contract, the force had two corporals: Jamie Quinn, promoted May 24, 2011, and Hare, promoted Sept. 28, 2010.

The city force has two sergeants: Christopher Blase, promoted April 11, 2011, and James Taylor, promoted Dec. 24, 2007.

Hare was hired Sept. 4, 2001, as a patrolman; his salary is $60,828.

The negotiating team for the new contract consisted of Persing, Patrolman Stephen Bennick, who is the Sunbury Police Officer’s Association President, Blase and Hare.

Bennick said the negotiating committee originally pushed for the four supervisors — the two corporals and two sergeants positions — to be equally ranked with equal pay.

The city never agreed to that, he said.

Instead, the new clause of corporals was added to the list of individuals the mayor could chose from for the chief position.

The intent was to have an option for the mayor in the event that the two sergeants were on extended leave, but that’s how it was worded, Bennick said.

“I would have thought that you would use your higher ranks before you use your lower ranks, but that’s not what happened,” he said.

Before the new contract was signed last year, city officers were working on an expired deal for six months. The new agreement gave the officers a 2.5 percent raise in both 2014 and 2015.

During Monday’s council meeting, Persing read from a statement and city solicitor Brianna Apfelbaum Kula informed the public that removing Mazzeo from the chief spot was in fact allowed because Persing is the head of the department and has the authority to switch chiefs at any time.

Mazzeo was off for the next two weeks, and is expected to return to the department Monday as an patrolman.

Mazzeo, who began leading the force on Feb. 14, 2008, has also become popular among residents for his volunteer work. Mazzeo is a member of various city organizations and is active in Sunbury events.

 

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