ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – The search for a permanent Police Chief for the City of Ithaca continues, and the silence from city officials drags on.

The City of Ithaca has been without a permanent police chief since the spring of 2021 when Chief Dennis Nayor resigned after a relentless 2020. Since then, John Joly had been serving as Acting Chief and was even told by Mayor Laura Lewis that he was going to be permanently appointed, only to have that withdrawn a couple of days later after reported backlash from members of the Ithaca City Common Council.

That spurred a lawsuit from Joly against the City. Joly has now taken an indefinite leave of absence due to the lawsuit, and now Theodore Swartz is in the Acting Chief position.

Interest in this story began earlier this year when the City of Ithaca decided to cancel the Civil Service Exam for the Police Chief position, after the closing period for the applications to take the exam. In March, WETM filed a FOIL request after not getting a response from a request for information from the mayor or City Hall. In the request, we requested a copy of the current Civil Service list for the position of Police Chief and a list of the applicants that applied to take the exam.

Ithaca officials finally responded to the FOIL request around 2.5 months later, and only after getting lawyers involved to assist. However, even with that, we did not get the current Civil Service List, nor a list of the applicants that were qualified to take the exam for the position. Some of what we received did reveal that there were at least five qualified applicants to take the exam and one additional person that was not approved to take the exam.

WETM also requested documentation of policies or the precedent of other civil service exams being canceled after sufficient candidates. In response, while no actual policy was given, we were given many redacted letters to previous candidates who had their exams either canceled or postponed due to COVID-19.

Essentially what we received was a pile of emails, with some redacted on the basis that they were intra-agency communications, including one surrounding our request for comment on March 8, 2023. We had sent an email directly to Mayor Laura Lewis, but that email was not included in the FOIL response.

There is an email from the 3rd Ward Alderperson, Jeffrey Barken, bringing Mayor Lewis’s attention to the follow-up story that we did on April 12, following not getting responses from the City. Barken cautioned Mayor Lewis that the article “probes your curious silence on this issue and needs to be taken seriously.” That email was dated April 13. As of June 1, we still have not heard from Mayor Lewis.

The contents of the FOIL Request response are below, there are 5 separate files, as that is how they were sent to us, due to the size of the files.

City of Ithaca FOIL Response

The documents below are as we received them from the City of Ithaca, the redactions were done by the City of Ithaca prior to sending them to us.

Part 1

23 05 24 FOIL No. 2023188127 Records Produced_Part1 by David Sorensen on Scribd

Part 2

23 05 24 FOIL No. 2023188127 Records Produced_Part2 by David Sorensen on Scribd

Part 3

23 05 24 FOIL No. 2023188127 Records Produced_Part3 by David Sorensen on Scribd

Part 4

23 05 24 FOIL No. 2023188127 Records Produced_Part4 by David Sorensen on Scribd

Part 5

23 05 24 FOIL No. 2023188127 Records Produced_Part5 by David Sorensen on Scribd

We have reached out to the firm that was contracted to conduct the search for the city; however, we have not had a response as of June 1. The questions we asked are:

  • How many candidates have applied?
  • How many are still considered viable?
  • What is the geographical location of the candidates that applied?
  • What is the projected date of completion for this search?
  • How is the search doing on budget?
  • Any other information that you are able to provide.