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


Crays: For $80K, I wouldn't have applied


Haines Borough interim manager Julie Cozzi said this week that staff was not out of place in providing former police chief candidate Richard Crays a salary range for the position that exceeded the $80,000 the borough had budgeted for it.

The attempted hire of Crays imploded last week after the borough assembly put a $73,000 cap on the chief’s pay. Crays responded by blasting leaders in angry emails.

Crays said this week he would have withdrawn his name from consideration back in December had he known only $80,000 was budgeted for the job.

Cozzi said executive assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck told Crays the salary range for the position was $70,000 to $85,000. Cozzi said she couldn’t remember whether she gave Culbeck permission to do so, but said the point was irrelevant.

“I don’t believe (Culbeck) did anything wrong... It didn’t take authorization. It’s not a set in stone thing. We give the best guess we can. It’s just an estimate,” Cozzi said in an interview Tuesday.

Cozzi said she didn’t know when Culbeck gave Crays the salary range, but that it happened “way before negotiations” started. Cozzi also said she wasn’t aware Crays had been given a range when she went into executive session to discussion salary negotiations with the assembly, though “it doesn’t matter.”

“A lot of times we have to come up with some kind of a range just on the fly,” Cozzi said.

The assembly, according to Cozzi, wasn’t aware of the range when it capped the salary at $73,000.  

Assembly member Debra Schnabel said she thought the cap was reasonable, as it was a 15 percent increase over Crays’ current job, which pays about $63,000.

  “The fact that the administration didn’t say anything indicated she (Cozzi) didn’t think there would be an issue,” Schnabel said.

In an email to the CVN this week, Crays said when Culbeck told him the salary ceiling was $85,000, he contacted two lenders to find out the price of homes he could afford. “One of the lenders said that $88,000 would be what he was looking for on a home of $239,000 that I showed him from the Web. It was with that I moved forward believing I could cut corners or find additional money from savings to bolster the down payment,” Crays said.

While he was first offered $73,000 and then $75,000, Crays said he was told at the end of negotiations that the budgeted amount had never been over $80,000.

“The lender, back in December, would have told me I couldn’t afford the move and I wouldn’t have pursued it. Full disclosure or more accuracy back on Dec. 26 regarding what was really available would have eliminated my participation in the process,” he said.

Sending the harshly-worded, insult-laden emails is something Crays regrets. “I was exhausted, frustrated and suffer a head cold, which excuse none of the negative words I used in my correspondence. I should have sent a one-sentence note saying I was very disappointed that it didn’t work out and kept my emotions out of it,” he said.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said Crays’ harsh reaction to the salary miscommunications was not acceptable and “lacked the level of administrative savvy I expect in a chief of police.” She also said Crays’ outburst and inability to secure the job was not the borough’s responsibility.

“I don’t think he was a victim of the borough. I think he was a victim of his own expectations,” Scott said.

Scott said Cozzi didn’t have to consult the assembly regarding salary negotiations, as the police chief position was recently moved via ordinance under the manager’s purview. That means Cozzi had the authority to negotiate with Crays up to the $80,000 budget cap without assembly approval.

“There was no reason for her to come to the assembly other than to overcome the budgeted salary,” Scott said. “Her hire of a police chief and request for confirmation shouldn’t be any different than her hire of an executive director.”

Scott said Cozzi, assembly members and she herself overlooked this detail out of habit. “Nobody noticed,” Scott said.

Interim chief Simon Ford said he agreed with the assembly’s decision to cease negotiations with Crays. “I was eager to work with him, but it seems that his choice of words in his attacks on our elected officials certainly made me hesitant to think he would be successful in the diplomatic parts of the chief’s duties,” Ford said.