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Public safety director discussion given no recommendation by Williamsport City Council’s finance committee

Mayor Derek Slaughter’s proposal before City Council’s finance committee Tuesday to have city Chief of Police Justin Snyder named as public safety director led to a vote by three of its members giving no recommendation.

The no recommendation vote, however, was not arrived at before a lengthy discussion on what appeared to be movement by city administration and council to revisit changes to the administrative code.

The public safety director role would not be paid, Slaughter said, adding retired former police Chief Damon R. Hagan fulfilled the role.

“I do think that a person in charge of police and public safety should not hold the two positions,” Councilwoman Bonnie Katz, who serves as chairwoman of public safety and public works committees, said. “Is it absolutely necessary to have a public safety director?” she asked. Katz also wondered what comes with the public safety director job.

“Perhaps we’ve never really fleshed out the role of public safety director,” Councilwoman Liz Miele said.

Slaughter reminded the council the administrative code, as written, said the department of public safety was to be headed by a director and he was just following the code.

Councilman Adam Yoder said he recalled voting for Hagan to be named to the public safety director role, but that he had mixed feelings of voting for a bureau head to assume a dual role.

Yoder referred to a prior statement by Council President Randall J. Allison who expressed concern of giving individuals too much power when these individuals served in multiple positions.

Yoder said his philosophical difference was no reflection on Snyder who he considered to be a “solid” chief of police.

“My concern is taking complete focus off those . . . and getting his hands in fire, emergency management and codes,” Yoder said.

Slaughter said he was willing to have discussions on the administrative code, specifically on department directors and managers, and whether the city should have a director of administration.

Slaughter said he did not support the director of administration and director of finance to be the same individual. The city may or may not make the director of public safety a paid position. If it does, the administrative code would need to be amended, according to the discussion.

“It appears council agrees with me that it wants the city to revisit the administrative code,” Slaughter said.

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