The search continues for a public safety commissioner. Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr. said he wants someone with legal experience for union issues and wants to avoid someone with existing ties to police, fire or public works.
When Mayor Fusco took office at the start of this year, he initially chose a three-man commission rather than a single commissioner. He choose each one for their specific specialty — John Keys for police, Glenn Hand for fire and Tom Panych for public works. The three retired city employees have all been volunteering their time so far. Most of the focus has been Keys’ work on Information Technology, and he has attended senior staff meetings when the topic has come up, said Fusco. The other two have not had many situations to deal with yet, but will be tapped when the time comes.
"We had a couple of people who were interested," said Fusco of the search, but personal and professional schedules didn’t match what Fusco needed from a commissioner.
"We’re looking to get a part-time person, someone with the proper background but not tied to the police, fire or public works. We want someone with a legal background or a contractual background." He said an attorney "would be ideal," as the position involves so many union issues.
Common Council Public Safety Committee Chair John M. Sparace, R-1, said Rome’s public safety commissioner "should have background in the public safety field." Sparace, a teacher, likened it to his own profession: "I wouldn’t want someone making decisions for me who didn’t have a classroom background. I want someone who can relate to what I do."
Regardless, Sparace said, "that decision is not mine. It’s ultimately the mayor’s decision. I will support whoever he puts in there."
He said the city shouldn’t need another attorney, as "we have two great lawyers and a great corporation counsel who can handle legal issues." Also, "we have a great fire chief and a great police chief in Rome to make decisions for public safety."
Sparace said "there’s one or two people that I’ve suggested, but I don’t know if he’s talked to them." He declined to name those he suggested. As for the overall search, he said: "The mayor has kept me in the loop, which I appreciate."
One thing that’s been missing this year that the public safety commissioner would normally rule over is the Public Nuisance Abatement Law hearing process. The law — which targets such things as drug sales and violence — allows the city to shut down properties that are the sites of multiple occurrences within a year. The three-person hearing panel (the heads of fire, police and codes) make a recommendation for punishment to the commissioner, who makes a final ruling. Punishment can be as stiff as closing a property for a year. The city has not conducted a hearing yet in 2012. If one were held before Fusco appoints a commissioner, he would serve in the role.