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No swearing-in for Long Beach police commissioner

Fails to receive waiver needed for the post

Posted

Ron Walsh, a high-ranking veteran Nassau County police officer, was to be sworn in Friday as Long Beach’s new top cop after a farewell ceremony at Nassau police headquarters.

 Instead, Walsh, 55, and Long Beach, were faced with a problem:  Walsh did not receive a permanent waiver from New York state to become Long Beach’s new police commissioner. Instead, he received only a temporary waiver, allowing him to serve only until Feb. 28.

Walsh, who was chief of the Nassau County police department’s support division, disclosed the problem at a work session of the Long Beach city council Thursday night.

“I found out that my waiver was not approved,” Walsh said.

As a result, under state rules, Walsh can keep his Nassau County Police department pension, but can earn only between $30,000 to $35,000. As a high-ranking Nassau police officer, his salary was in the six figures.

 As Walsh explained, there were other candidates for the Long Beach commissioner’s job who were interviewed by the Long Beach city manager, Donna Gayden. If any one of them did not need a waiver, and was otherwise qualified, that person would get the top cop spot.

Since Walsh was not sworn in to the post, it was unclear Thursday night whether he could legally continue to carry out the duties of Long Beach police commissioner. That issue was not addressed at the council’s work session. A city source said Walsh was in his office at Long Beach police headquarters Thursday.

 City Council President John Bendo questioned the state rules. “It sounds odd,” he said. “If you’re qualified and you’re the right person…” 

Walsh said, ”You don’t get to choose the best candidate. The person must need a waiver.”

Gayden suggested the city would have to re-evaluate its job qualifications. She said the description for the police commissioner’s job may have been “too minimal.”

“I want people to understand the waiver is the question, not the person” who was selected for the job.

Bendo said, “We’ll do what we have to do to fix this.”

But it was unclear what steps the city could take to keep Walsh if he were forced to work at such a low salary.

He was chosen over Phil Ragona, a 34-year Long Beach police officer who had come out of retirement last spring to take over the top spot. Ragona retired when it became apparent Walsh would get the job.