The number of finalists for Haines Borough Police Chief has dropped to two after applicant Scott Happ recently withdrew his name from consideration, leaving interim police chief Simon Ford and Christopher Canaski of Des Allemands, La., to vie for the job.
Also, interim borough manager Julie Cozzi said she won’t abide by a recommendation by the borough’s Public Safety Commission to delay a hire until a permanent borough manager is hired.
Former manager Mark Earnest initially narrowed the field of 16 to four, but eliminated finalist Steven Annetts’ application after preliminary Google searches by the Chilkat Valley News revealed a troublesome work history.
Happ recently notified the borough that, after careful consideration and review of Haines’ current affairs in the Chilkat Valley News, he decided to withdraw.
“It just didn’t seem like it was going to be a good fit for me,” Happ said in an interview Tuesday. “It didn’t seem like anybody recommended by the old city manager was going to get a good break.”
Happ said though the community seems “fabulous,” he didn’t think it was the right time for him to move to Haines.
Interim manager Cozzi said she is waiting to receive the results of background checks on Ford and Canaski, which are being performed by Russell Consulting, LLC.
The Public Safety Commission voted Sept. 30 to recommend the borough hold off on making a selection until a new manager is hired.
“While it is important to give consideration to a recommendation, the manager is not bound by it,” Cozzi said this week, describing the commission’s position as “not acceptable.”
Cozzi said she strongly agrees with Earnest’s reasons for not postponing the hire. Earnest cited the department’s current short staffing, and unfairness to current applicants who would be expected to wait as much as five months before a decision is made.
“Why should the hire be left to someone with no knowledge of the department and community? Even an ‘excellent’ manager will be getting their feet on the ground for the first six months,” Earnest said.
Cozzi said she expects background check results by Oct. 25. If those come up clean, Cozzi hopes to assemble a committee to interview Ford and Canaski. If Canaski passes the phone interview stage, he would then come up for a second, in-person interview, Cozzi said.
Former police chief Gary Lowe was not interviewed, a scenario Cozzi does not want to repeat. “I just think it would be important for the public to know he came in person,” she said.
Cozzi said she would make a recommendation to the assembly as soon as possible, though that recommendation won’t necessarily be to hire Ford or Canaski.
“The decision could be we went through all of this and I recommend that we advertise again,” she said.
Canaski has worked for Affirmative Insurance Holdings in Baton Rouge, La., since 2011, conducting insurance fraud investigations. Before that, he worked for Progressive Casualty Insurance in Metairie, La., for less than a year, also performing insurance fraud investigations.
Canaski also worked for two years as chief of police in Cordova, from April 2008 to May 2010. From 2007 to 2008, he worked as a deputy sheriff in Harvey, La.