Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Finalist for top cop blasts assembly

 


The attempted hire of a new Haines Borough police chief fell through Wednesday when the assembly voted unanimously to end negotiations with Richard Crays, the assembly’s top candidate for the job.

Problems started last week with apparent confusion between Crays and borough officials about how much the borough was willing to pay an incoming chief. The borough assembly voted Jan. 28 to cap pay at $73,000, just as Crays and interim manager Julie Cozzi were to enter pay negotiations.

According to a Jan. 29 email from interim clerk Julie Cozzi to Crays, Cozzi started with a salary offer of $70,000 and $5,000 for moving expenses.

Crays called the salary offer “troubling” and said he was looking to make $90,000 to maintain his current standard of living. Cozzi confirmed this week that borough staff had previously told Crays the pay range was $70,000 to $85,000.

On Jan. 30, Cozzi responded that she was acting under “budget and assembly constraints” and said, “I believe I can go higher, but honestly I don’t believe there is any way I can go above $80,000.”

That same day, Crays sent an email to interim police chief Simon Ford complaining about the salary offer. “I will not move my wife to a town run by narrow-minded, corrupt politicians,” Crays wrote.

“Some assembly folks there work part time for Obama? Maybe used to work at a used car lot?” he added. “Sorry about the intolerance and hate in my contempt with the government there, but it was a needless abuse of power that I doubt I can forget.”

In an email to Cozzi on Jan. 31, Crays said it would not be possible to make the move based on the money offered and likened the experience to “dealing with car salesmen.”

“I cannot forgive them that willful and terrible abuse of their position,” Crays said.

After coming out of executive session, assembly member Debra Schnabel was the only assembly member to comment on the motion to terminate negotiations with Crays. Schnabel said Crays “exhibited a lack of appreciation” for the negotiation process and displayed excessive “emotionalism.”

In an interview after Wednesday’s meeting, Cozzi said she was “very disappointed in how this all turned out. None of us expected this.”

“How Mr. Crays reacted to the negotiations was just pretty over the top,” Cozzi said.

On Wednesday, the assembly also voted to authorize Cozzi to pursue hiring a police chief within the budget amount of $80,000.

That decision came after interim police chief Simon Ford spoke to the assembly.

Ford defended the police chief position as one warranting relatively high compensation, as chiefs in small towns like Haines are required to do everything from traffic stops to report writing to managing staff to dealing with members of the public at the grocery store.

“You have to compensate a person for that,” Ford said.

Ford said based on all the responsibilities a police chief has in Haines, he would not take the job for less than $75,000.

Ford also recommended the borough in the future figure out who exactly will make the salary offer and what the salary range will be before posting the job.

Cozzi said she hopes to have a recommendation for the assembly by Tuesday’s assembly meeting, but wouldn’t comment on whether that recommendation would involve offering the job to the other finalist, Bill Musser.

Crays did not respond to calls for comment by press time. Previous police chief Gary Lowe was paid $86,980.

How the assembly determined the $73,000 cap last week is not clear. The cap was set following an executive session where compensation was discussed.

Crays is a senior firearms instructor at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy who worked two years as chief of investigations at the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles.

He was also chief of a municipal police force in Wray, Colo ., and an assistant public information officer in Littleton, Colo.