Mayor critical of ‘leaks’ about decision
By Jeff Simms
The Beacon City Council has unanimously approved the appointment of Capt. Kevin Junjulas, a 23-year veteran of the police department, as chief of police, succeeding Doug Solomon, who resigned in December to take the same job in Newburgh.
Junjulas, who is a resident of Cold Spring, had been serving as interim chief. He was recommended by Mayor Randy Casale, who before the vote blasted council members for allegedly leaking the news that Junjulas would be appointed.
“Trust is a valuable word, and I have lost a lot of trust,” Casale said, implying that the leak led some residents to protest the hiring process. The mayor said he had received emails suggesting he should have asked for input from the public before making his recommendation to the council.
“The people elect the mayor of Beacon as the CEO of the city,” Casale said. “The person that I put up as chief, I have to know that he’s going to follow through and lead with my vision.”
Casale said that he told council members Jan. 29 during a closed session that he would name Junjulas, who will serve on a provisional basis until he takes the Dutchess County civil service exam for police officers, which is currently scheduled to be given in March 2019. If he scores highly, he could then be named permanent chief and begin a one-year probationary period.
At the council’s Monday, Feb. 5, meeting, the debate focused on procedure and not on Junjulas’ merits as a candidate.
“There’s nothing more deteriorating to an organization than to have no leader,” said resident Pat Kelliher, urging the council to approve the appointment.
But Lisa Marie Martinez asked that the council delay its vote, citing the lengthy search that the Beacon City School District undertook last year before hiring Matt Landahl as its superintendent.
“This is the city’s opportunity to have an ally of the people and not more of the same from a department with a tarnished reputation and bad community relations,” she said.
Council Member Amber Grant said that while she had no objection to Junjulas, “if the community wants to have some information about this person, I think they have that right.”
Casale agreed but said, “I don’t think [Junjulas] needs to answer to the community before I make the appointment. This isn’t government by committee, this is government by elected officials.”
The discussion continued for nearly an hour, with each council member ultimately indicating his or her support for the appointment but not necessarily the procedure. “People just want to know how this process worked and how the decision was come to,” Grant said.
Yet, said Council Member George Mansfield, “as much as I value the opinion of the public, I can’t imagine how much it will actually influence our discussion with tangible information.”
Three Beacon religious leaders — Pastor Ed Benson of the New Vision Church of Deliverance, the Rev. Ricardo Pacheco of Tabernacle of Christ Church and Rabbi Brent Spodek of the Beacon Hebrew Alliance — also emailed Casale to ask for a delay.
“We know the history of the Beacon police,” Pacheco said in an interview on Feb. 7, referencing past oversight of the department by the U.S. Justice Department following allegations of brutality. “But we don’t know the new chief and we don’t know his vision as far as community relations.”
Three years ago, Pacheco helped initiate a dialogue that led to the creation of Beacon Speaks Out, a quarterly meeting of residents with police and city officials, including Solomon and Casale.
“That helped to quell some of the community’s concerns at that time,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to having our police department [engaged in] racial profiling.”
Solomon, who was confirmed by the Newburgh City Council on Feb. 5 as that city’s provisional chief, has been credited with restoring order to the Beacon Police Department after he was hired in 2012. Federal oversight was lifted in 2016 after the department demonstrated “substantial compliance” with recommendations regarding the use of force, the type and quantity of ammunition carried by officers, the city’s system for handing public complaints and officer training methods, among other issues.
Junjulas, 50, was promoted to captain in 2015. He did not attend the meeting Monday, but Casale read a statement in which the officer pledged that the department under his leadership would “live and work in accordance with the highest ethical standards.” He is scheduled to address the council at its Feb. 13 workshop.