A civilian dispatcher for Buffalo police who was placed on paid suspension after a prostitution arrest last year was arrested again on a prostitution charge late Monday night.
And though 12 months has passed since her first arrest on March 3 of last year, Mary E. Ruchaczewski has been able to hang on to her city job. That’s because the Police Department has not conducted a disciplinary hearing in more than four years, creating a backlog of dozens of cases, according to city and police sources.
Ruchaczewski’s latest arrest has frustrated police, who say her paycheck resumed after the initial 30-day suspension last March. Civil service law requires public employers to resume paying suspended workers while their disciplinary charges are pending.
The 49-year-old dispatcher was arrested after police confirmed reports that she was advertising her services on an Internet website. Members of the Buffalo Police Narcotics and Vice Bureau, along with an undercover deputy from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, set up a sting Monday night.
After Ruchaczewski allegedly agreed to perform a series of “sexual acts” with the undercover deputy for $120, the detectives arrested her at 10:45 p.m. in a room at a North Street hotel.
Police believe Ruchaczewski has a gambling problem, which has prompted the alleged illegal behavior.
Ruchaczewski is a member of Local 264, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Efforts to reach a union spokesman were unsuccessful.
Sources say that there have been virtually no disciplinary hearings since April 2010 when the city fired an assistant corporation counsel who was assigned full time to handle personnel matters in the Police Department.
“It’s disgusting that there have been no hearings,” a police source said, expressing frustration that other employees, including a suspended police officer, have been able to stay home and collect paychecks while their cases remain in legal limbo. “This officer has been doing nothing and getting paid for four years.”
Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball said his office spends a large amount of time on police matters.
“The Law Department has committed substantial time and resources to the Police Department in an effort to streamline the process and to expedite and resolve the backlog,” he said.
He pointed out that in past years there have been as many a 1,000 pending grievances with the Police Benevolent Association.
He also said Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda has worked hard to impose a high standard of discipline in the department by ridding it of officers who fail to properly perform their jobs.
“And we’ve been working tirelessly with the commissioner on that objective,” he said.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Mary Scarpine spends the bulk of her time on police matters, representing the city on grievances filed against the department by the PBA, and she handles other legal matters. Other attorneys on the corporation counsel staff also are involved in police matters.
But some police officers said more assistance is needed from city attorneys to move the overall disciplinary process forward.
A year ago in the early-morning hours of March 3, Amherst police arrested Ruchaczewski at a Maple Road motel after an officer made a traffic stop involving an 18-year-old motorist who had just left the motel. The teen told the investigating officer he had patronized a prostitute at the motel and agreed to call the room and say he forgot his belt, town police officials said at the time.
The Amherst officer interviewed Ruchaczewski, and she admitted to committing six acts of prostitution that night, according to the officer. She was charged with a B misdemeanor, authorities said, adding that the charge was later adjourned in contemplation of dismissal on the condition she remain a law-abiding citizen for six months. At the time of her arrest, she told police she had a gambling problem and owed money.
She has now been suspended without pay for another 30 days and additional departmental disciplinary charges are being placed against her, in addition to the newest B misdemeanor charge of prostitution.
Derenda declined to comment, explaining that the matter involves personnel.
But police say they are not happy with the latest developments and the previous disciplinary delays and want to see Ruchaczewski fired. They are hoping a disciplinary hearing will be held soon or that if a plea deal is offered to Ruchaczewski by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the deal will require her to resign her position with the Police Department.
Ruchaczewski, who was released on an appearance ticket, has worked for the department a number of years and is a former community leader in the Lovejoy neighborhood.
A few years ago, Ruchaczewski served as president of the East Lovejoy Coalition of Neighbors and had promoted strong ties in the neighborhood that included a successful annual National Night Out event in Lovejoy, an evening devoted to crime awareness and ways of preventing it from happening.
This week’s arrest was made by Detective Sgt. Timothy Mulhern and Detective Carmen Clark.