Friday, May 16, 2008

Pawlina says "no"

Job security an issue in search for police chief

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— The uncertainty of a short-term contract was the final deal-breaker for the mayor’s pick to be the next police chief in the Elm City.
“I thought New Haven would be a good fit for me. I really wanted the job,” said Mark Pawlina, 49, the police chief in Chatham, Mass., and a 22-year veteran of the Hartford Police Department. “I thought it was just a tremendous opportunity, but it has to work not only for me. It had to work for my family as well.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, he described the decision to turn down the job as “excruciating.”
In the end, Pawlina said, he couldn’t justify uprooting his wife and four children and move them to New Haven when he wasn’t assured of a job beyond January 2010.
That’s based on the city charter, which states that any incoming police chief would serve the remainder of his or her predecessor’s contract and then be up for reappointment. Retired police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. was reappointed in February 2006, so the contract Pawlina would have assumed would expire Jan. 31, 2010.
In recent weeks, negotiations had reached the final stages with job security as a major point.
While the administration couldn’t do anything to change the language of the charter, in an effort to build in a layer of security, it did approach the Board of Aldermen about creating a severance package that would have triggered if, for whatever reason, Pawlina had not been reappointed, said Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts, and the effort did have a positive effect on negotiations.
During several trips to New Haven with his wife, Pawlina said he had visited downtown and explored some of the neighborhoods and liked the character. Downtown Hartford has a more cold, corporate feel, he said, but New Haven, “with the shops and the restaurants and the coffeehouses, it has a much different feel, a real busy and active feel to the downtown.”
The city had hoped to announce Pawlina as the new chief as soon as next week, but on Wednesday he called and declined the position. Pawlina praised Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and his staff, saying they were tremendous in trying to address his family concerns.
“The big concern was worst-case scenario. As my wife put it, you’re there a year and a half, you don’t get reappointed, we’re living in New Haven, we’ve made this big commitment and you’re looking for a job,” he said. Pawlina is married with four children ranging in age from 6 to 12.
After receiving the news that he declined to come here, the city contacted the Police Executive Research Forum, the consultant hired to conduct the search, and asked them to re-advertise the position. Acting police Chief Stephanie Redding will continue to lead the department in the interim.
The administration had thought Pawlina would be a good fit for New Haven. During his 22 years in Hartford, he earned a reputation of being a good communicator with the ability to reach out to all segments of the community.
He served as acting chief for six months in 2004 and during that tenure required all of his officers to develop five community contacts with whom they should keep in regular contact. He retired in 2005 for the job in Chatham.

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