By Joe Gorman
Mayor-elect John A. McNally says his selection for police chief was cemented by two meetings with Robin Lees over the holidays.
McNally’s remark came Saturday during a news conference at Fellows Riverside Gardens introducing Lees, a retired city police lieutenant, and the new mayor-elect’s appointment for law director, Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Martin Hume.
Lees did not apply for the job until the weekend of Dec. 14, when he ran into McNally at a function and McNally told him to submit a resume. The two then talked on Christmas Eve morning and the day after Christmas, and McNally said he liked what he heard.
“I was very happy with a lot of responses and the dialogue we had,” he said.
Lees, who retired in 2011 after 33 years on the force, said he was pleased to be back in the department.
He’s not sure yet what changes he will make because he wants to familiarize himself with the department, but he said he will be keeping a lot of policies in place that outgoing Chief Rod Foley has started, including the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program.
Lees will be rehired at the chief’s salary, said McNally. When asked by a member of the audience about hiring people who are retired, McNally said he understands concerns about that, but he also wants to hire the people he thinks are best suited for the jobs.
Lees was in charge of the Vice Squad and the department’s Planning and Training Bureau and also the multi-agency Mahoning Valley Crisis Response Team and Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force, which conducts long-term criminal investigations, mostly centering on drugs throughout Mahoning County.
Lees said his leadership style will probably be a mixture of the last three chiefs he served under: Richard Lewis, Bob Bush and Jimmy Hughes.
“I’ll probably be a blend of that,” Lees said.
Foley, who was promoted in 2011 by outgoing Mayor Charles Sammarone, will return to the rank of captain and “will be an intricate part of future operations,” Lees said.
Lees said he expects to do more “fine tuning” in the future than make any radical changes. He said one thing he does want to do is maintain the ability to be flexible.
Hume, who has his own law firm and has been an assistant prosecutor for 17 years in county court in Boardman, said he has a lot of experience in labor law, which should be beneficial to city employees who can be assured they will be able to work free of discrimination or harassment.
“We want to make the city a great place to work,” Hume said.
Hume said he wants his assistant law directors to stay and that his experience in more than 30 years practicing law will be handy.
“I probably did everything there is to do,” he said.
Hume replaces Anthony Farris, who was also appointed by Sammarone. McNally said Farris was asked to stay on, but Farris said Friday he is not sure he will.
Hume said he knows the city has some crime issues and the job will not be easy, but he thinks the city is a great place to live and work and believes he can help the law department make a difference in the city. He said not only are the lawyers on staff dedicated and good lawyers, “most important, I think they’re good people.”
Another priority, he said, is to try to make some headway on improving the city’s municipal court facilities, which have been considered outdated for years.
Two positions in the cabinet, deputy director of public works and city prosecutor, will probably not be filled until after the first of the year, McNally said. Three people have been interviewed for the public-works job, he said, but he wants Hume to have some input on the prosecutor post once Hume assumes his duties.