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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 4, 2011
By Jo E. Prout
ALTAMONT Acting Public Safety Commissioner Todd Pucci is now eligible to be appointed to his position permanently. With a fourth-place score of 88 on the Civil Service exam for police chiefs, Pucci was in limbo while the village contacted the top three scorers.
“One responded and he declined,” Pucci told The Enterprise this week.
“It looks like pretty smooth sailing,” Mayor James Gaughan said on Tuesday. “He’s reachable,” said Gaughan of Pucci.
The village is required by state law to hire a commissioner from among the top three scorers who passed the required exam and are interested in the position. The Civil Service list became official July 11, and the village has 60 days, or until Sept. 9, to hire or remove a person from the post.
Pucci will have to wait until the time is nearly over since the village board will not meet in August. Gaughan said that vacation schedules were already set, and that he would not call a special meeting.
In his letter to the top three candidates, he said last month, “I’m going to put in there a two-week time for them to respond.” Candidates often take Civil Service exams for practice with no intentions of moving to a new locale for the posted job.
Waiting until September to hear back from the other two candidates is “a formality,” said Gaughan. “It doesn’t matter.”
The mayor went on, “I’ve already informed the board.” Gaughan said he is prepared, at the September meeting, to recommend that the board permanently appoint Pucci. The board can immediately vote to appoint him, Gaughan said.
Pucci was appointed as acting commissioner by the village board in December 2010. Former Commissioner Anthony Salerno had refused to say whether or not he took a May 2010 Civil Service test required for all those in charge of municipal police departments. Salerno had been hired provisionally with the requirement he pass the exam.
Before that, Altamont worked with Albany County’s Department of Civil Service to appeal to the state’s Civil Service Commission to avoid the exam for Salerno; the request was denied in July 2009 as the commission found a “lack of compelling evidence” and cited the “clear practicability” of the exam. None of this was discussed publicly.
The village board named Salerno “team leader” when his provisional time as commissioner ran out. The board gave Salerno a 50-percent pay-rate increase while reducing his hours, leaving him with a similar salary. Gaughan was named provisional leader. Salerno did not say why he had not taken the exam for five years, but he stated, after his name did not appear on the Civil Service exam results, that he had previously planned to retire.
Public scrutiny and concerns about village liability with the mayor heading the department last year led the village to begin a new search for a commissioner. At its October 2010 meeting, the board revealed a new timeline for placing a qualified person in the commissioner post by December.
Pucci, who had trained through Altamont’s police department and who has been a part-time officer with Altamont since 1997, was appointed then. He holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University at Albany.
Pucci works full-time in Altamont for $40,000 per year, and continues his full-time work with the Cohoes police department.