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Interim Police Chief Cited Drawbacks of Mayor Security Detail
By RACHEL BARNHART | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rochester's interim police chief wanted the mayor to have police officers, not armed civilian guards on the mayor's security detail.
The chief's opinion was contained in documents obtained by News 8 from the city in a Freedom of Information request for all information related to the hiring of Reggie Hill, Mayor Lovely Warren's uncle. Hill retired from the New York State Police in January.
In December, City Hall staff tried to figure out the best way to bring Reggie Hill on board to guard Mayor Lovely Warren. At one point, they considered making him a police officer. The emails show it was important to staff that Hill be allowed to carry a firearm.
In a December 6 email, then-Deputy Chief Michael Ciminelli sent an email to Human Resources Director Tassie Demps and then-Chief James Sheppards. In the email, Ciminelli said the state would allow Hill to transfer to a position in the RPD, but he would have to undergo training. However, in order to follow labor rules, Hill would have to be brought in at a high-level union-exempt position.
In the email, Ciminelli said the Syracuse mayor uses five police officers who rotate in and out of the assignment every three to five months. "We could provide sworn RPD officers to assist on an as-needed basis," Ciminelli wrote. "We have several sworn RPD officers who have undergone dignitary protection training, and have experience in this."
Ciminelli cited drawbacks to Hill working in a civilian capacity. Under the NY Safe Act, he would be limited a 7-round magazine in his firearm. Hill would not be able to carry the gun into certain government buildings, such as schools. He would also not be able to make arrests.
A city official responded to the email on December 9 saying, "It sounds like the 'armed security route' would have too many drawbacks."
But on December 11, Demps emailed the mayor to say that Hill would not be eligible to transfer into a competitive sworn position into the police department, under Civil Service law. She does not address the possibility raised by Ciminelli that Hill could have been brought in as an exempt high-level police department employee.
In the email, Demps said the city would "create a civilian title (Director of Executive Services) for Reginald." The temporary title would be approved at the Civil Service Commission's December 19 meeting.
Demps said all new titles have to be made competitive, meaning an exam would be required and other applicants would be considered. But she said they had the option of asking the state to make the job non-competitive, and she didn't foresee a problem getting that approved. A later document shows the city intended to make the positions non-competitive. People appointed to non-competitive positions have to meet minimum qualifications and the city would not have to select a candidate based on exam results.
In that same email, Demps said the city's benefits department was working to get Hill a state waiver that would allow him to collect his full New York State Police pension while working for the city.
Emails show city council was asking questions in January about how the jobs were created and funded. The city responded the funding came from the mayor's operating budget. The salary of $80,186 for the Director of Executive Services was decided upon after comparing to the city's Director of Security position. The Director of Executive Services job was put into a higher salary bracket because of the requirement to carry weapons and additional responsibilities.
The mayor has said Hill provided services such as transporting her to and from her home every day. Warren said she has received threats.
The city also created an Associate Director of Executive Services position with a salary of $61,128. That job is filled by Cesar Carbonell. The city also intended to make his position non-competitive.
Hill resigned the post of Director of Executive Services after weeks of controversy regarding his appointment. Critics charged he got the position because of nepotism. There were also questions about whether the position was needed, as no previous mayor had such a detail.
The last straw came upon revelations Hill was stopped twice on the New York State Thruway for speeding while transportating the mayor to and from the State of the State address in Albany. The mayor had said he was only stopped once. Hill was suspended from his position and later resigned, saying he did not want to be a distraction to Warren.