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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 14, 2011

Pucci scores 88
Not in top three for required exam

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — Provisional Public Safety Commissioner Todd Pucci passed his Civil Service police chief exam, but, with three others scoring above him, the village board may still not be able to permanently appoint him to the position.

Pucci took the exam June 4. He had expected to take it in March, but it was not available.

Pucci learned Wednesday that the results were in.

“I got an 88,” he told The Enterprise. “I’m all set there, I believe,” he said about receiving a passing score.

Mayor James Gaughan told The Enterprise that Pucci’s passing score — while higher than scores in previous exams — was the fourth-highest score. The village is required by state law to hire a commissioner from among the top three scorers who passed and are interested in the position.

Public scrutiny

Pucci was appointed by the village board in December 2010 after eight months of turmoil in this small police department. Former Commissioner Anthony Salerno, after five years on the job, 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.

Pucci was hired with the same provision. 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, although it reduced his hours, leaving him with a similar salary. Mayor James 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. Salerno, instead, sought the nod last month from the county Democratic Party to run for Albany County Sheriff. He had earlier applied to be chief of the Albany Police.

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 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.

Pucci’s position

Pucci’s score of 88 “means he’s passed,” Gaughan said this week. “It means we’re happy, and we’re pleased. We can now move forward through the required process…as expeditiously as we can.”

Gaughan said that the village must canvass the other three candidates ahead of Pucci on the Civil Service list, which was officially published Monday, July 11.

“If one of them declines, he’ll be reachable,” Gaughan said of Pucci. In his letter to the three top candidates, Gaughan said, “I’m going to put in there a two-week time for them to respond.”

Gaughan said that the village has 60 days from the time the list was published to appoint or remove a person from the position in question. Pucci’s time would run out Sept. 9, Gaughan said.

In the village’s previous search for a qualified candidate, the majority of passing scorers were from downstate, and were not interested in working for a small village, Gaughan said.

Asked if he expects at least one of the top scorers to decline interest in the post, Gaughan said, “It’s pretty likely. We expect at least one declination.”

Gaughan and the board have praised Pucci’s efforts publicly since he took over in December.

“I’m hopeful he’ll be reachable so we can appoint him. He’s done very well,” Gaughan said this week. “We’re very fortunate to have him.”

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