For the last week Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has been defending her decision to hire her uncle, a retired New York State Trooper, as part of a two-man personal security team.  Monday night she learned she may have to defend the decision in front of the city’s Board of Ethics.

A statement issued by a Rochester City Council spokesperson Monday night detailed the request:

“The Board will be asked to determine if the hiring was done in accordance with Civil Service Commission requirements and whether the hiring of Reggie Hill, the Mayor’s uncle, violates the city’s Anti-Nepotism Policy.”

Warren welcomed a review by the ethics board Monday night and at a press conference earlier in the day insisted the hiring did not violate civil service requirements.  Warren said Hill and Ceaser Carbonnel were hired on a temporary basis which she claims was authorized by the executive secretary of the Civil Service Commission.

“Both gentlemen understood when they took the job that it was a temporary appointment and that it would be advertised because it needed to be,” Warren said.

As far as the city’s Anti-Nepotism Policy, Warren explained since Hill will report directly to the Deputy Mayor and not to her, it is not a violation.  It’s an issue the Board of Ethics will ultimately decide but not right away.

Rochester’s Board of Ethics currently has two empty seats and a member whose term has expired.   Once the board has quorum, the council is asking it to,

“Immediately look into the matter at hand with extreme thoroughness and render a decision as soon as possible.”

If the security detail becomes permanent, Hill will be paid a little more than $80,000 a year, Carbonnel will be paid a little more than $61,000.  The money would come out of the Mayor’s budget.

Warren explained last week using this two-man security team, instead of a Rochester Police detail offered to all mayors but not previously used, will save money.  Warren acknowledges the story has received a lot of attention, but refused to describe the situation as a distraction.

“This issue of the security detail has become the one thing people want to talk about every day.  And I’m fine with that, and I don’t apologize for it,” Warren said.  “I think we have become so engulfed in trying to make a scandal out of something that people can not just be upfront and honest. ” She added. 

Warren cited a report Monday in the Albany Times Union as an example of “dishonesty.” According to the report Hill, who was driving Warren to the Governor’s State of the State Address Wednesday, was traveling at 97 miles per hour when he was pulled over by State Police on the New York State Thuway.

“That is completely untrue, completely untrue.  He was not going 97 miles per hour,” Warren said.

Warren said Hill, who’s worked security for three Governors, was accustomed to driving a little faster than the posted speed limit. Warren said Hill was driving about 77 miles per hour on the way home from the Governor’s event and told the trooper who pulled him over that was customary for security details.

“He (the trooper) said, ‘well you’re not working for the governor anymore sir, so you need to slow down.’ He (Hill) said, ‘ok well I understand the protocol now, I’ll abide by that,’” Warren recalled.

Hill was not ticketed.  State Police released a short statement Monday:

“We are aware it is possible a trooper effected discretion during a traffic stop involving the Mayor of Rochester last week. Having said that we want to be clear, we would never encourage or condone driving at an excessive rate of speed.”

The incident fueled continued criticism over the security detail that began as soon as the positions were made public.  Warren, Rochester’s first female and second African-American Mayor, continued to reference threats she’s received online and through social media but for the first time described them as racial and physical in nature.

“Well what does ‘you won’t be here for long’ mean?  I perceive that to be a physical threat,” Warren said.

Warren told reporters she regrets not better explaining her reasons for making this decision before the news, the security team was hired, became public.  She said part of the reason for that is because the decision to hire them was made so late in the transition process.

“But making the decision to hire a security detail that is as qualified as this security detail, I do not regret,” said Warren.

The former City Council President believes most of the criticism she’s received has less to do with who she is and more to do with her surprise upset over incumbent Tom Richards.  She hopes in time she’ll win her critics over.

“I’m fine with that I know I have a lot to prove to people,” Warren added.