METHUEN — The city's new "police administrator," or interim police chief, has finally been approved by the City Council and was "on the clock" as of Wednesday, according to Mayor Neil Perry.
The City Council Tuesday night approved a transfer of $45,000 to cover the salary of former Westford police Chief Thomas McEnaney to serve as interim chief for the next three months.
His hourly rate will be $108 per hour.
Perry said that while he will be in charge of the department and will be making all the decisions about personnel, the budget and other issues, he won't be a sworn officer, so will not be carrying a gun or going on calls.
The contract for McEnaney's employment is with MRI, an employment firm specializing in public safety positions. McEnaney will hold the position for three months. Meanwhile, the city will put out a request for bids from other employment companies that might also be able to provide candidates for an interim chief.
Perry expects that MRI will likely win that bid because there aren't many companies that do that kind of placement.
Another contract could be signed for an additional three months, meaning McEnaney would on the job for six months, which is about the amount of time the city will need to find a new chief, Perry has said.
The vote to authorize the transfer was 7-1, with City Councilor Jessica Finocchiaro voting against it. Councilor Mike Simard was absent from the meeting.
Finocchiaro voted against the measure when it was first proposed at the last meeting, saying she wanted to see the contract first before agreeing to fully fund it. She said the council should have approved just $10,000 until the mayor released McEnaney's contract.
"Once we have seen the contract, then we can approve the rest of funds," she said. "Ten thousand dollars should be more than enough to sustain the contract. I haven't seen the contract. It was promised to us at the last meeting."
She made an amendment to transfer just $10,000 but the amendment failed for lack of a "second."
Meanwhile, work continues to create a search committee for the next chief, Perry said.
"I have everybody lined up," he said, noting that the kickoff meeting of the group should be next week, at which point Perry will help establish a timeline and goals.
"I want them to move, but not so fast," he said, adding that the job first needs to be advertised with a description crafted by the Human Resources Department.
"It could be advertised within the month," Perry said, adding that the search committee would likely meet weekly to discuss the candidates. "It depends on how many people apply."
Perry added that internal candidates will be considered as well, including Capt. Randy Haggar and the former acting chief, Kris McCarthy.
"People are going to say I've already made up my mind," said Perry, adding that was not the case. "But McCarthy and Haggar should be considered."
Former Chief Joseph Solomon retired after being placed on paid administrative leave following an audit of the department and a scathing report from the state Inspector General's office. Both reports accused the chief and some of his superior officers, including Capt. Greg Gallant, of wrongdoing. Gallant has also been placed on paid administrative leave.