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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 5, 2008
Chief at last
By Saranac Hale Spencer
GUILDERLAND Applause from a crowd of hundreds followed three votes for the appointment of Carol Lawlor as police chief. The two opposing votes were met with silence.
Each of the town board members gave an explanation before casting his or her vote the final tally, as expected, fell along party lines, with the Democratic majority in favor and the two Republicans, who joined the formerly all-Democratic board in January, opposed. Councilmen Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm favored John Tedesco, an assistant chief of police in Troy, who they say was a more qualified candidate.
“I… feel embarrassed for the board as a whole,” said Democratic Supervisor Kenneth Runion, after he began his pre-vote speech by saying the board had been through some tough times since Redlich and Grimm took their seats six months ago.
“I apologize to you… that you had to endure such a long and arduous process,” Runion said to Lawlor, who sat in the front row at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“That’s democracy,” Redlich said after the meeting of Runion’s apology. Both Redlich and Grimm called for an open process to appoint the next police chief, since the long-time chief left amid controversy about a year ago.
After reviewing 22 applications from across the state over the last several months, Runion said as he introduced his motion to appoint Lawlor, “The best candidate is Carol Lawlor.” The room erupted in applause.
The first councilman to vote was Redlich, who explained that he supported Tedesco because of his experience elsewhere, his education, his understanding of technology, and his success in accrediting the Troy department.
“We don’t have an accredited department,” he said. “We should have an accredited department.”
After his ‘no’ vote was cast, Democratic Councilwoman Patricia Slavick praised Lawlor, saying that, in the year since Lawlor has been acting chief of police, “The department has not missed a beat.”
Breaking the applause that followed Slavick’s ‘yes’ vote, Democratic Councilman Paul Pastore went on at length about Lawlor’s roughly 30-year history with the department before giving his ‘yes’ vote to audience applause.
Grimm acknowledged the audience’s sentiment, saying that it was nice they supported the “hometown” candidate. “But,” he said, “I have a different responsibility.” He stated his support for Tedesco, citing his experience, and said, “The merits should have taken us in a different direction.”
He praised the board for the process, though, saying that it was, in fact, an open one. “This would have been another quiet 5-0 vote,” he said, if it had been decided by the former board.
When it came to Runion’s final vote, he spoke highly of Lawlor, with whom he has worked for 30 years, noting her family’s history with the town also. Lawlor’s mother, who was a Republican, worked as deputy supervisor under three administrations, he said, adding that it was “ironic” that the two Republicans on the board were voting against her.
“Tonight it’s over,” Runion said of the contentious search for a chief of police. “Tonight I’m casting my vote for Carol Lawlor.”
In other business, the board:
Unanimously appointed Michael Dean and Gregory Forgea as telecommunicators in the police department following an executive session.
Redlich requested the closed session since one of the people up for appointment wasn’t among the top three scorers on the Civil Service exam. Redlich, Slavick, and Grimm voted to enter executive session, with Pastore and Runion voting against it. During the closed session, Redlich said yesterday, Lawlor explained why she thought the pair were the best candidates.
“I think her answers made the difference,” he said of why he voted for the two candidates in the end. “I voted for the guy because of what Carol said”;
Voted unanimously to authorize a warrant adjustment for the building at 1828 Western Ave. due to a billing error; and
Voted unanimously to authorize the supervisor to sign a collector’s warrant for the Guilderland water district.