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Police promotions draw fire

When Rotterdam's police commission promoted two patrolmen and two sergeants last week, it raised eyebrows and some questions.

Officers Daniel Ryan and Robert Denny were promoted to sergeant, with $66,126 salaries. The commission also promoted sergeants Jason Murphy and Michael Brown to lieutenant, with $74,102 salaries.

The town board's lone Democrat, Diane Marco, charged Commissioner John Mertz, a Republican, with usurping the promotional power of the police chief and the legislative authority of the town board. But Marco is not the only one questioning the promotions.

Murphy's promotion, in particular, has some residents crying foul. The new lieutenant is the son-in-law of Frank Renna, vice chairman of the town's planning commission. Renna is also a Republican candidate for town board in this year's election.

Mertz said Murphy was promoted because he was very qualified.

In the last three years of performance evaluations, he outscored the other candidates, Mertz said of Murphy. "He appeared to have better qualification and he was our No. 1 choice. In negotiating with the chief, he (the chief) also indicated he could use two lieutenants."

The police commissioner said that his evaluations and his seniority prompted commissioners to promote Murphy.

"The decision was relayed to the chief prior to his recommendation," Mertz noted. "Consequently, the chief recommended promoting Sgt. Brown."

Last week, Police Chief James Hamilton deferred to the police commission.

"Over the course of the last several months I made recommendations, but ultimately they're the appointing authority, and it's their decision about who's going to get promoted and when," Hamilton said.

In an April 24 memo obtained by Spotlight Newspapers, Hamilton had strongly recommended Ryan's promotion to sergeant and Brown's promotion to lieutenant.

Mertz replied to Hamilton with a memo the next day acknowledging and agreeing with his recommendation regarding Ryan.

"However, please be advised that the commission will be supporting Sgt. Murphy for appointment to lieutenant," Mertz said.

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