City Manager Lori LaVerriere is expected to appoint one of three men — from a pool of 83 applicants — to the position Tuesday or Wednesday.
The finalists are Joe DeGiulio, an assistant chief with Boynton; Kenneth Ferguson, who retired this year as chief of the Framingham Police Department in Massachusetts; and Michael Gregory, a Fort Lauderdale assistant police chief in the department’s DROP retirement program.
They will be interviewed Monday by three panels — community, law enforcement and leadership. After that, each city commissioner will meet with the candidates. The public is invited to attend a meet-and-greet with the three candidates that same day from 6-7:30 p.m. at Fire Station 5, 2080 High Ridge Rd.
On Tuesday city staff will attend a meet-and-greet with the three, followed by final interviews.
“Everybody looks at it through a different lens,” LaVerriere said.
Each candidate has 20 years or more of law enforcement experience. DeGiulio and Gregory appear to have solid work histories with positive reviews, according to personnel and internal affairs records obtained by The Palm Beach Post. The Post hasn’t received records for Ferguson that were requested May 17. However it is unclear what would have been released because Florida is known for having a much broader public records law than other states.
An April news article on Ferguson’s departure from Framingham had his colleagues and peers speaking highly of his time as chief and his career. The article did point out that in 2016, the Superior Officers’ Union took a vote of no-confidence in Ferguson, but Ferguson and a city official said that wasn’t unusual for a department that large.
Boynton’s chief will lead about 155 officers, 53 non-sworn employees, operate a $30.4 million budget and help protect about 73,000 residents. The salary range is from $99,662 to $149,494, according to the job listing.
The new chief is coming in at a time of immense change for Boynton. The city is embarking on a huge growth spurt with the development of a downtown and Town Square area. About $500 million worth of development has been approved, potentially bringing in thousands of residents. And the police department will soon move to a temporary location at 2045 High Ridge Rd. while the city builds a new station at High Ridge Road and Gateway Boulevard near Fire Station 5.
Whoever is chosen as chief will replace Jeffrey Katz, who retired from the department in December and is now the chief at Chesterfield County Police Department in Virginia. Katz spent about four years as chief and about 20 with the department. LaVerriere appointed Assistant Chief Kelly Harris as interim chief. Harris applied for the permanent job and made it to the top eight, according to the city.
The three finalists have likely familiarized themself with history of the department, which has been riddled with controversy. When Katz took over, the department had just been labeled by an outside review a “troubled organization” and “beset with strife.” Fights about pay led to the union parading a billboard through the city with unflattering caricatures of the city leaders, and there’s been pushes for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to take over. In a three-year span from 2011 to late 2014, six officers were arrested.
Just this past year four officers were indicted on federal charges tied to the 2014 beating of a passenger involved in a high-speed chase. Two of the officers were convicted — one for of deprivation of rights under color of law, and the other, obstruction of justice for lying to FBI agents — and two were acquitted.
And the search for the chief has also been a topic of contention.
The Coalition of Clergy, a group of clergymen and women, have accused the city of not being transparent in the search for chief and wanted more involvement. The group also asked the city on Tuesday to stop the search. But LaVerriere said she’s been transparent with the process and even met with the group in May. Also, she already asked two members of the group — Guarn Sims, also the principal of Boynton Beach Community High, and Rev. Richard Dames — to sit on the interview panels Monday.
Clergy spokesman Rae Whitely said the group should have been more involved because it lives in the Heart of Boynton, which has the most crime. At a recent meeting, they also pushed for applicant Javaro Sims, an assistant chief at Delray Beach Police Department. His brother, Guarn Sims, said he was “shocked” to learn Javaro only made the final eight. Guarn Sims is still expected to be a panelist Monday.
The search for the chief began in December when Boynton paid $25,000 to Strategic Government Resources to conduct a national search that resulted in 83 applicants. Despite the high number, LaVerriere said she was disappointed the crowd wasn’t more diverse: 79 men and three women (one didn’t want to disclose gender); Sixteen said they were black or African American and 53 said they were white; one Asian, seven Hispanic and five said they were two or more races (one didn’t want to disclose race).
While most applicants came from Florida, the position drew interest from residents of New York, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The only other internal applicant, besides DeGiulio and Harris, was Paul Deale, a captain.
The city worked closely with SGR to help the search team understand the city and its needs. A brochure was posted in 13 places nationally and the application period was from Feb. 12 to April 2.
The 83 applicants were divided into three tiers based on qualifications. Eighteen made it to Tier A, the highest, and out of that came the top 12, who were tasked with another level of testing. Four of those applicants dropped out, leaving the team with eight. Based on that next level of testing, the team narrowed the finalists to three.