Mayor Tyer seeks to make Michael Wynn permanent police chief; union leaders opposed
PITTSFIELD >> Mayor Linda M. Tyer is seeking a special order from the state Civil Service Commission to make acting police Chief Michael Wynn permanent chief of the city department after seven years in his current role.
The move is being opposed, however, by the presidents of International Brotherhood of Police Officers Locals 447 and 447S, who want the mayor to call for a new Civil Service examination that would be open to all officers within the department.
Tyer said Friday that she learned in January from Fernand Dupere, the city's labor relations attorney, of the option for appointing Wynn permanent chief. She said she informed the PPD union leaders that she was considering such a petition and heard their objections, and later talked to them again after making a final decision June 15.
"I let them know I was going to proceed," she said. "I think we are at least clear what our positions are."
Tyer said the process will likely involve a hearing before the Civil Service Commission and is described under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 31, Section 2, paragraph B.
"It is important to point out that if we succeed with the special order, I will still have to go before the City Council for confirmation of the appointment," she said.
Tyer said she believes such an appointment offers a chance to address "what I believe was an injustice to Chief Wynn." She said that after Wynn finished first in a Civil Service assessment, former Mayor James M. Ruberto named him acting chief while expressing dissatisfaction with the Civil Service process.
The former mayor also never initiated a new exam process, she said, and Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who served two terms following Ruberto's departure, continued Wynn in an acting status. Bianchi expressed dissatisfaction with the process and advocated removing the post from Civil Service to allow a mayoral appointment from a wider pool of candidates.
In a prepared June 16 statement under the letterhead of the two union locals, Matthew Hill, of Local 447S (representing police supervisors), and Andrew Couture, of Local 447, (representing patrol officers), said: "While this department has been without a permanent chief for over eight years, we are both opposed and disappointed in the manner in which [Tyer] intends to make such an appointment."
They added, "Our position has always been that a new police chief Civil Service exam should be offered to members within this department and that the mayor should make a promise to select a permanent chief from it."
The last chief exam was held during Ruberto's tenure, and "it was made clear that despite offering the exam, Mayor Ruberto had no intention to make any of the candidates a permanent chief and was opposed to doing so within Civil Service," the union officials stated.
Four officers paid the $250 exam fee, they said, and two took the exam, including Wynn. They added, "Both Mayor Ruberto and subsequently Mayor Bianchi openly expressed their disdain for Civil Service and their desire to hire outside the Civil Service process."
The union officials said further that "the purpose of Civil Service is not to tie a mayor's hands in his or her decision making, but instead to prevent abuse of position and influence, which has long been documented during periods without it. The department needs the stability of a permanent chief, free from political interference, to focus on the business of public safety and to develop long-term goals for the agency."
They said, "Seeking a special order permanent appointment is not the designated Civil Service process; it is an end run around it."
Wynn said Friday that when Tyer took office in January and asked how his appointment could be made permanent, he told her his understanding was that a new Civil Service exam and assessment would be required, in part because examinations expire if no appointment is made.
He said he agreed to seek the special appointment because it would allow him to retain credit for serving as chief since 2009 under Civil Service. "This is not about not going through the process; it is about getting credit for my service [as chief]," he said.
Wynn added, "We expected some questions and some skepticism, but I didn't expect outright opposition by some members of the [unions]."
Tyer said one of her principal objectives in seeking the permanent appointment for Wynn is "because I am on a mission to strengthen the police department," and the change would help accomplish that goal.
She said Wynn "has continued to deliver exemplary work despite [his acting status]."
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
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