Mayor declines to identify four Northampton police chief ‘semifinalists’; Connecticut chief in the mix



Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — A screening committee has concluded its work and recommended four candidates for police chief to Mayor David J. Narkewicz, who declined to reveal the applicants on Thursday, calling them semifinalists.

One of the four candidates is Marc Montminy, an experienced police chief in Manchester, Connecticut, who was interviewed by the city’s five-member screening panel on Tuesday, according to a report in the Journal Inquirer newspaper in that state.

“My expectation is there will be a further winnowing down,” Narkewicz said of the four candidates left from an initial pool of 34 applicants. “This is still a private process, not a public process.

“In terms of the employment process, it’s still a confidential process,” he added.

The screening committee had interviewed six candidates on two occasions in the past week, recommending four to the mayor. Screening committee member and City Council President William H. Dwight said Thursday that the panel had completed its work and recommended four candidates to replace outgoing Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz, 59, who is retiring in June after 37 years on the force, the last 21 of them as chief.

“It’s out of our hands,” Dwight said. “The mayor is free to choose any of these candidates. He’s free to reject them all.”

Dwight declined to name the four candidates, leaving that decision to the mayor, but he did say they are all well qualified.

“Personally, I’m all in favor of seeing the candidates revealed at this point,” he said.

Peter J. Caruso II, a media lawyer in Boston, said case law has been clear about finalists having to be named when a governmental or public body, including screening panels and subcommittees, completes its work and recommends candidates, but individual elected officials such as a mayor do not have to abide by such requirements when appointing people to high-level posts.

“Technically, under the law, they don’t have to tell us anything,” Caruso said of public officials not subject to similar transparency measures. “The public should have insight into their next police chief at this point.”

In his view, Caruso said the four candidates recommended by the city’s screening committee would classify as finalists and should be revealed at this point in the spirit of open government.

The screening panel started with 34 candidates, which it eventually trimmed to nine, then six, and finally four people whose names were forwarded to Narkewicz. When there were six candidates, the applicants had included both internal and external candidates, according to screening panel members.

“Call them whatever the heck you want to call them, these people are finalists,” Caruso said. “It becomes absurd when you start at a number like 34 and you’re down to four and you’re still not at a finalist stage.”

Narkewicz said one reason he declined to reveal the four remaining candidates is that all must still go through another phase of the hiring process involving further assessments and evaluations that are common when hiring high-ranking law enforcement officers. Narkewicz added that he is also still in the process of reviewing the screening panel’s work and meeting with the city’s consultant, Wayne Sampson, of the Shrewsbury-based Public Safety Consultants, who was hired to guide the search.

“This is still an active search process,” Narkewicz said. “There are still going to be further steps to the process before they are finalists.”

Narkewicz said he hopes to be able to reveal who the final candidates will be within the next few weeks.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.




 


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