Minutes of a November city Police Commission meeting show that then-mayor Shayne Gallo made a series of promotions to settle a long-running union grievance. He made these against the wishes of Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti and three of four commissioners who, the minutes indicated, wanted more time to negotiate with the PBA over staffing issues.
Meanwhile, Mayor Steve Noble said this week that Gallo had overstepped his authority by making the promotions without a majority vote by the commission. Noble and the commissioners rescinded the promotions at a special Jan. 2 meeting and plan to revisit the issue at a regularly scheduled meeting of the board later this month.
Tinti said the dispute between the PBA and city dates back to 2008 and 2009, when manpower at the department shrunk from 81 to 73 sworn officers. At the time, the department’s three lieutenants — who, by contract, did not work weekends — were shifted into a weekend rotation to share supervisory duties with sergeants.
In 2014, the state’s Public Employment Review Board ruled that the move constituted “improper practice” and the lieutenants were shifted back to a weekday schedule. At that point, the department’s sergeants filed an “impact bargaining” grievance, arguing that a lack of available supervisors hurt their ability to use vacation days and other time off.
Tinti said negotiations on how to resolve the issue were ongoing in November when Gallo announced that he intended to fill a vacant lieutenant’s post and select a candidate to fill another lieutenant’s position expected to open up in January. Two patrolmen, meanwhile, would be promoted to sergeants to backfill the vacancies. When afforded an opportunity to weigh in, Tinti said he recommended that that the promotions be put off pending further talks with the union. Three of four police commissioners agreed.
There followed — the minutes show — “much contentious but [sic] respective debate” about whether Gallo had the authority to make promotions without the commission’s approval. One board member, Dr. Nasser Habeeb, supported Gallo’s claim that he was the sole appointing authority, but commissioners Brad Jordan, Dr. Steven Grossman and retired KPD Detective Junious Harris argued that promotions could not be made without commission approval.
At one point, the minutes show that an apparently exasperated Jordan opined that the issue would not be resolved at the meeting and would ultimately be debated in a courtroom.
Once Gallo signaled that he planned to issue the promotions that day, candidates for the positions were called in for interviews. Names of the candidates were redacted. But the minutes show that of three cops eligible for the lieutenant jobs, one said he was not interested. Of six sergeant candidates, two declined the post. The three commissioners then repeated their objection to filling the vacant lieutenant jobs and the tentative lieutenant vacancy expected in January. Gallo again overrode the decision and called for votes on all four positions. In each, case, the minutes show, Jordan, Harris and Grossman supported one candidate while Habeeb and Gallo backed another. In each, case, Gallo promoted his own favored candidate. The meeting broke up without adjourning and with Gallo declaring that there was no need for a December meeting of the commission.
The commission did convene a meeting on Jan. 2, one day after Noble took office where commissioners and Noble voted to rescind Gallo’s promotions. Noble said this week that he had obtained a legal opinion from acting Corporation Counsel Dan Gartenstein backing up the commissioners who argued that the charter gave them a vote on whether and who to promote. Noble said that he intended to consult with Tinti and the commission before proceeding with any promotions.
“I think it’s clear that we need sergeants and we have to fill some of these spots,” said Noble. “But I want to let the commission follow their process.”