By LIZ BUTTON
The city is now lacking permanent employees in two key leadership positions after Rye City Police Commissioner William Connors announced his resignation earlier this month, effective January 2014. Compounding the situation is the eight-month absence of a permanent full-time general manager at the city-run Rye Golf Club.
Former golf club manager Scott Yandrasevich resigned Jan. 18 of this year, after it was revealed to the City Council the previous fall that he allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership dues through shell staffing companies he set up. Interim manager Jim Lopolito temporarily took the golf club reins and, along with maintaining jurisdiction over the golf course and the pool, has devoted energy to drawing new customers to Whitby Castle, the club’s restaurant.
In the midst of all the chaos, City Manager Scott Pickup said he has been corresponding with professional hiring firms to find a new general manager to run the club.
In years past, a combination of Rye Golf Club Commission members and other club members have met as a committee of the whole and vetted candidates, but a professional firm would guarantee the maximum number of candidates to choose from, Pickup said.
Pickup said the search for a firm to choose a golf club manager has taken a little longer than anticipated. While his office has talked to multiple firms for the past month, Pickup said, some have rejected participating for fear of the difficulty and possible notoriety to be gained in hiring for a club tarnished by scandal.
“Given some of the publicity, given some of the negative issues that are still surrounding the club…I think that it would be beneficial to widen our net to be able to use the services of a firm so that they can give us a better pool of candidates,” Pickup said.
However, offering a competitive salary for the position is also a challenge for the city.
In talking to professionals who recruit in Westchester for high-end private clubs like Rye Golf Club, the city manager said he has learned that most candidates for this type of position are looking for $175,000 to $200,000 per year along with $50,000 to $75,000 worth of perks, like performance bonuses, on top of that.
Yandrasevich, before he resigned in January, was being paid $107,671 per year, according to the 2013 pay schedule for city employees. Yandrasevich and his family were also provided with a house on the club’s grounds where they lived rent free.
The golf commission is currently in the beginning stages of constructing the club’s budget for 2014 and hiring a headhunting firm to recruit a full-time general manager will be a factor in that budget.
Pickup said most of the firms he had spoken to consider the typical process of hiring a candidate to take 90 days.
Interim manager Lopolito said that, while his current contract with the city ends in January, he would be interested in applying for the full-time permanent position if the time frame made sense. This would be dependent upon whether or not he has already signed a contract for a new job somewhere else and upon the pace of the city’s hiring process as it moves forward.
Lopolito said managing Whitby has had its challenges.
“It has hurdles here. There are certainly obstacles that prevent you from building the operation the way that it should be,” but, overall, he said, he has enjoyed his time in the position and has learned a lot about the club.
The city manager said he also plans to begin speaking to firms to help hire a police commissioner.
The city has around four months to choose a new commissioner before Connors steps down on Jan. 16, 2014.
Connors’ most recent salary was $144,613 per year, according to city payroll records.
In the past, Pickup said the format of the search process for new police commissioners in Rye has varied widely. When former City Manager Frank Culross hired William Pease in 1994, he met with Pease at City Hall on a Saturday and announced the decision to the City Council the following week. Pease left the post in 2000.
But to hire Connors, a veteran of the New York City Police Department, in 2001, Julia Novak, the city manager at the time, used hiring firm Bennett & Associates to conduct the search and contracted with another firm for a second assessment round to distinguish the final candidate.
Councilman Joe Sack, a Republican who is running for mayor this year, said a decision about the next police commissioner would be better made by the new administration elected in November and suggested that a slightly lower level police official, such as a lieutenant, might take over the position temporarily. Prior to Connors’ hire in 2001, Lt. Joseph Verille served as acting commissioner.
However, Pickup said that ongoing manpower issues at the station make it highly unlikely that this would be possible.
Republican Councilman Peter Jovanovich, an independent mayoral candidate, said he
believes the search must begin immediately.
“It deals with health and safety of residents, and the thought of being without a police commissioner going into January is an appalling idea,” Jovanovich said. Since the process is going to take 90 days at least, the city has to get going, he said.
Pickup said he hopes to have search firms selected for both positions for the City Council’s October meeting, but the actual hiring does not necessarily have to be approved by the council since these would be professional services contracts.
“Given the sensitivity that everybody has toward these two positions,” Pickup said. “I think it makes sense to bring these to the council at least for public information as well as the council’s opportunity to comment.”