Cornell students should have no problem sympathizing with Ithaca Police Chief Victor Loo. Loo, sworn into office April 13, recently faced every college student’s worst nightmare — he failed a test.
The test in question was the State Civil Service Exam. According to Schelley Michell-Nunn, MILR ’90, director of Human Resources for the City of Ithaca, the exam is required of all applicants for competitive government positions. Loo, along with several other would-be city employees, took the test on March 22. The results were certified on July 17, and showed that Loo was not among the three applicants who passed the test, placing his job in jeopardy.
Those applicants were Deputy Police Chief Lauren Signer, Police Lt. John Beau Saul and Gerald Schoenle, director of the Erie County Police Training Academy. In order to pass, entrants must earn a score of 70 or better on the test. Civil Service laws require that the position go to an applicant with one of the top three scores on the test.
“It’s not that you can’t hire anyone who doesn’t score in the top three,” Michell-Nun explained, “It’s just that your top three is a moving top three.” If one or more of the top scorers is no longer interested, the title of “top three” moves down the list.
“We have to canvas to determine if the people who are eligible wish to be considered,” Michell-Nunn said. To do this, the City sent letters to these three applicants to determine if they were still interested in the job. The applicants had until last Friday to reply.
If all three applicants had told the city that they still wished to be considered, Loo would have been forced to vacate his office within 60 days. If this had happened, the city would have most likely appointed Schoenle as Police Chief.
Just as the civil service requires a position to be filled from amongst the top three applicants as determined by the exam, the city charter requires a position to be filled from amongst the top three applicants as determined by the search committee. “Currently, there’s only one person who’s on both lists – and that’s Gerald Schoenle,” Michell-Nun said.
When contacted by The Sun, Schoenle had already informed the City of his desicion – he is still interested.
“If this opened up and [Mayor Cohen ’81] decided he wanted to offer me that position, I would be very happy to have that position,” Schoenle said. However, he stressed that he would also be content remaining at his position in Erie County, if Loo remained in office.
When The Sun contacted Lauren Signer, she had also already given her decision to the City. Unfortunately, she wasn’t giving it to the press.
“I sent my decision into the Civil Service office today and will not be discussing the details with anyone,” Signer said via email on Friday, indicating that she preferred to let the City announce the results.
“However,” she added, “I will say that I took into consideration what I think is best for the IPD and for the city as a whole. I have been impressed with Chief Loo’s performance so far and have seen first hand the positive impact his leadership has had in this department.”
Signer also praised Chief Loo for his hard work, saying that he has “[put] in many extra hours…reached out to many community groups and made positive changes within the police department in order to serve the community better.”
The city recently announced that Loo will keep his position. Although Schoenle and Paul both asked to be considered, Signer did not. With only two people remaining on the list, it was possible for Loo to fill the third spot. However, he will remain a provisional employee until such time as he successfully completes the test, offered annually.
Before coming to Ithaca, Loo was a Lieutenant of the New York Police Department. He has over 20 years of experience on the force, and previously headed a unit of 125 individuals, according to Michell-Nunn. An article in the Ithaca Journal several months ago held that his appointment in Ithaca also made him the first Asian-American Police Chief on the East Coast.
Neither Chief Loo nor Lt. Beau Saul could be reached for comment at the time of this article.
Archived article by Courtney Potts