It’s only in the public sector that administrative leave with pay is considered good policy. And it’s only in the public sector that a supervisor is able to ban an employee from the work place with the flimsiest of reasons. A case in point: The city of Hubbard, where Mayor Richard D. Keenan has targeted police Chief Martin Kanetsky. Incidentally, residents of Hubbard have witnessed this type of political hyperbole before.
But before delving into what has become an embarrassment for Hubbard, we would like to offer this piece of advice to the mayor: Hiding behind a litany of “no comments” is not a sign of political courage or depth.
On Jan. 6, Keenan put Chief Kanetsky on paid administrative leave — a vacation by any other name — pending an investigation into “various charges.” And what were the charges? You wouldn’t know by reading the one-page letter the city’s chief executive sent to the top cop. The charges include, but are not limited to, “insubordination, misuse of city facilities and/or property of the city of Hubbard and jeopardizing the health of the entire police department and facilities.”
What does that mean? Keenan would not say. His refusal to be specific prompted city council to schedule a special meeting Tuesday.
But there weren’t any answers forthcoming after the 35-minute session behind closed doors. On the other hand, a comment from council President Bill Williams left little doubt that lawmakers want nothing to do with the mayor-police chief imbroglio.
“Council didn’t have anything to do with this,” Williams said. “We legislate and approve.” The lawmaker did say he does not believe Kanetsky has been asked by Keenan to resign.
This isn’t the first time the police chief has been placed on paid administrative leave. From August 2005 through September 2006, then Mayor Art Magee barred Kanetsky from the office, but the public was never given an explanation. Neither the mayor nor the law director at the time, Gary Gilmartin, would provide details to city residents via the press.
Indeed, the police chief, who is a civil service employee, claimed that he did not know why he was given a 13-month vacation — remember, being paid a full salary and benefits means the employee’s pension is not affected in a negative way — but speculated that it was in retaliation for his filing a worker’s compensation claim.
What makes the current flap even more troubling is that Mayor Keenan appears to have ignored the advice of city Law Director Jeffrey Adler as to how the “discipline and/or termination” should be handled.
In keeping with the relevant state statute, Adler recommended that the mayor detail the reasons for the action against the chief.
“Specifically, you should detail the orders that the chief has violated; the dates such orders were given to the chief; and the dates that the chief failed to comply with those orders,” the law director wrote. “And you should provide any other reasons for your actions.”
None of the records made public shows the mayor heeding the law director’s advice.
Absent such a record, Keenan has opened himself and the city of Hubbard up to a possible lawsuit. Simply citing insubordination without given specific examples won’t do. Remember, the chief is protected by civil service laws.
The mayor’s dodging the press or offering a “no comment” is irresponsible and feeds the perception that he’s pursuing a private agenda.
Silence is not golden when it comes to the people’s business.