In a vote by the Clarkstown Town Board on April 5th, 2016 the Bonadio Consulting Group was chosen to conduct a review of the operations of its police department and its cost. Since the beginning days of the former Gromack administration the escalating cost of operating Clarkstown’s police department has been a continuing concern beginning with a major article in the New York Times of May 2009. Supervisor Gromack referred to police salaries as being “obscene” and said that he had inherited the problem from a prior administration.
In that article from seven years ago, the New York Times stated:
“Police Chief, Peter T. Noonan, was not thrilled about discussing police pay. In 2008, Chief Noonan, 56, made $332,529. He was not even the highest paid: one of his two captains earned $335,676, while working two days a week because of a disability and spending three days a week undergoing physical therapy. The other captain earned $311,369.
The 50 highest-earning Clarkstown employees were all members of the 173-member Police Department, with those 50 earning roughly $10 million, or about $200,000 each on average. By comparison, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, makes $189,700, and average annual pay for city police officers ranges from $43,062 for a cadet entering the academy to $90,829 for an officer with five and a half years on the job, including overtime and other earnings, according to Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman. In New York City, salaries for captains start at $108,342, and grow after four years to $135,524. Many Clarkstown officers are able to augment their salaries by collecting hundreds of hours of overtime a year — in some cases earned in previous years — and extra earnings for unused holiday, vacation, personal and sick time.”
Three years later in May 2012 not much had changed except that Clarkstown’s Supervisor, Alex Gromack, was no longer talking about the salaries being “obscene“. Instead he was justifying the police costs with remarks that the police department was “proficient” and by “covering the entire Town on its own was doing the job of two or more departments”. What Gromack was trying to say with that statement is unclear but it was a turnaround of epic proportions and he seemed to be implying that the “obscene” salaries were completely justifiable because the police were overworked.
Police Captain Thomas Purtill’s payout was nearly $543,415 before his retirement which made him by far the highest-paid public employee in New York. Purtill retired with the highest ever Rockland County pension at $162,614. Second is his former chief, William Sherwood, whose pension is $162,037.
Winding forward to 2011 the cost problems continued unchecked – Police Chief, Michael Sullivan, was getting by on $260,000 managing a smaller police force of about 160 while the NYPD Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, was managing on a salary of $212,947.
Kelly’s police force was covering the entire city of New York and he was overseeing the largest urban police department in the world with roughly 40,000 police officers under his command, a force about one half the size of the total population of Clarkstown. Simply stated, Sullivan was earning 22% more managing a force 0.4% the size of that managed by Kelly. In the same year New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who ranked 2nd highest paid among all U.S. governors’ salaries earned $179,000; Sullivan earned 45% more than NY State’s governor.
And it was the same story all down the police ranks. In 2009, the Clarkstown Police Department employed the first, second and fourth highest paid county and municipal employees in the State of New York, having the highest average salary statewide of any town. The mean compensation was $148,000 and mean salary was $115,000 more than double the average annual wage ($51,410) of police officers in the USA.
As mentioned above, Mr. Gromack blamed the high police salaries on previous administrations, which he said allowed salaries and benefits to balloon with every contract negotiation. During his years in office, he said, he has been working to limit overtime and scale back some perks. “I inherited these obscene salaries, and I’ve been attempting to turn them around and bring some reality and sanity to the salary structure of our police,” Mr. Gromack said.
During his term in office Mr. Gromack went through two cycles of negotiations with the PBA and what did he accomplish in reigning in costs? The Clarkstown police were awarded 3.4% raises by a State arbitration panel retroactive for 2009 and 2010 even as it conceded that the police officers were among the highest paid in the nation. According to the Journal News the Clarkstown Police Benevolent Association asked for a 5.5 percent increase for the period! A case of “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” as Gordon Gekko put it in the movie ‘Wall Street’.
“It wasn’t what we would have written” Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said. “We were hoping for a lower number.” The arbitration panel admitted that “by every indication, Clarkstown police officers are among the highest paid in the nation”. How well did Supervisor Gromack fare in his last negotiations with the PBA for the five year period January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2017? That new five-year agreement with the Rockland County Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association gave 2.5 percent increases EACH year for the length of the contract.
In 2014 Bill Bratton was sworn in as New York City’s top cop to oversee a force of 34,500. His salary was $208,286. Clarkstown had the third, fourth and fifth highest paid employees in our region – all senior officers in the Clarkstown Police Department …. Chief Sullivan $272,037, Captain Mahon $270,753 and Captain Ovchinnikoff $260,190. All three are still paid more than New York City’s top cop. The police chief of Clarkstown today has a salary 30% higher than Bratton, yet today still manages a police department that is only 0.5% the size of the police force supervised by Bratton.
Clarkstown’s Taxpayers are paying a staggering $802,980 per year for the three top officers to manage a police Department of just 163 officers. Add to that an additional cost of 35% for their fringe benefits and one can see why Clarkstown is in danger of going belly up.
This is fiscal madness and Clarkstown’s taxpayers are footing the bill with loss of their property values through their rising property taxes. Several Town citizens suggested that it was time for the incoming Clarkstown Town Board to consider a radical idea – that of outsourcing Clarkstown’s Police Department, when the PBA contract expires, or consolidating it with one or more of the other police departments in Rockland County to reduce management costs and increase operational efficiencies.
Some areas appear to be completely out of control. For example, overtime appears to be a huge cost problem in the police department; it is over $3 million per year or approximately $10,000 per day. Just a couple of years ago Officer Sherwood, the son of the former police chief, William Sherwood, left the department having earned more than $81,000 in overtime in 2012. He was paid a salary of $125,166 that year, but his total income for the year, according to the website that tracks government payrolls (SeeThroughNY.net/payrolls/towns/), was $206,237, including overtime. It was claimed that Sherwood “mistakenly” filed for about $400 in overtime he did not work and he was removed from the force.
What followed was an internal “audit” by the senior police brass of the overtime in the police department characterized as a “meat and potatoes” audit. It found nothing amiss. In announcing that internal audit which examined approximately 6% of the total overtime Chief Sullivan said, “This is for the public trust.”
The Journal News disagreed and stated in an editorial of February 07, 2013:
“The Town of Clarkstown has announced an audit of Police Department overtime after an officer resigned rather than face departmental charges for receiving payment for overtime he did not work. The inquiry shouldn’t end there. In a town where six-digit police salaries are the norm, the probe should come as part of a larger examination of police staffing needs and overall compensation. This inquiry should be conducted by outside experts on police operations and management.”
The editorial concluded that taxpayers deserve nothing less than an independent review.
What was strange about Sherwood’s removal from the force was that his overtime was not out of line with that of his colleagues. There were 51 police officers, including Sherwood, whose incomes in 2012 were over $200,000 many because of overtime. Those 51 officers constituted nearly one third of the Clarkstown police force. Incredibly, 42 police officers, that is 25% of the Clarkstown police department took home more in 2012 than Raymond Kelly, the Police Commissioner of New York City.
Yet when asked again by the editors of the Journal News and several citizens for an independent forensic audit of Sherwood’s overtime, the Democratically controlled Town Board under Supervisor Gromack declared that the police were “fully capable of auditing themselves“.
In his opening statement preceding the report on his final findings about Sherwood, Chief Sullivan said something eerily similar to what he recently said to the present Town Board about the Bonadio group, He claimed that no outside organization was as capable as his senior officers of auditing the police department’s overtime: “Nobody asked us to do this”, Sullivan said, “we decided to do this on our own.”
Sullivan continued: “Now when I talk about this overtime ‘audit’ – really, it was not an ‘audit’ – it was more of an ‘investigation’ – an audit ‘slash’ investigation – and when you talk of overtime abuse most people think of working overtime that is not needed to enhance income or for pension padding. Those are all important issues to be sure but that was not the purpose of this ‘audit’ …. the purpose of this ‘audit ‘slash’ investigation’ was to determine if any officers were putting in for overtime that they were not working.”
Denying that an external auditor could have done this “meat and potatoes” audit Sullivan stated: “This was something that we had to do ourselves. I don’t think an outside independent auditor could have done this particular investigation in the way that we did it. First of all you would have to have really detailed knowledge of the police department, the court system, you would have to know the people … and an outside auditor would not have had access to the outside records, the audiotapes from the courts that we examined over painstaking hours of examination. They just would not have had that so I’m satisfied that it was the right decision.”
Apparently, those calls for an independent audit have now been heeded with the announcement that a team from the Bonadio Consulting Group will examine the Police Department’s operations and costs and make recommendations in about three months on possible cost efficiencies and cost reductions. Here are the bios of most of the Bonadio team who will conduct that review …..
Brian Lafountain is a Partner in the Government Compliance and Labor Division at The Bonadio Group. He has over 13 years’ experience in a wide variety of auditing, consulting and business advisory services. He is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) as well as a Certified Public Accountant.
Brian provides forensic accounting, auditing, and internal auditing services to a wide variety of organizations, including public and private corporations in several industries. He also has experience with a national accounting firm, providing tax consultation services for individuals, corporations and partnerships. Brian currently works with eighteen different counties on various fraud and forensic type engagements, as well as a variety of private corporations with unique fraud and forensic accounting needs.
Lafountain and the Bonadio Group annually identify millions of dollars in cost avoidance for these clients. Brian received his B.S. degree in accounting from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. Brian is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the Rochester Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors.
Kenneth Pink is a member of the board of directors and a CPA. In addition to financial audits, Ken brings his clients a deep understanding and an unsurpassed level of experience and expertise in conducting vendor and operational audits. He is also becoming one of the State’s experts in auditing Medicaid providers, and in the process, is helping to lead the charge on Medicaid Recipient Fraud.
He also oversees one of the largest union and benefit fund practices in the market, conducting required audits, delivering business consulting and planning, and assisting with other accounting needs. Ken has over thirty years public accounting experience with both international and locally based accounting firms.
Prior to Bonadio, Ken was the Managing Partner of Perry, Pink & Semmler, CPA, P.C. which merged with Bonadio in 2002. Ken received his B.S. degree in accounting from Geneseo State University. Ken’s professional and community service involvements include: Certified Fraud Association, New York State Government Finance Officers Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants Political Action Committee Trustee, Genesee Valley Club, Chairman for “Keep the Sun Shining” $6.4 Million Fundraising Campaign for Disabled Children, and Board of Directors of the Rochester Rotary Charitable Trust, Inc.
Dominic (Nick) Mazza is a Principal in The Bonadio Group’s Government, Compliance, and Labor Division. After 35 years of managing New York State local governments, he recently joined Bonadio as a Municipal Consultant.
Nick’s broad range of experience in intergovernmental operations extends from small city government to the county level. For 25 years, Nick served as the Chief Budget Officer for three local governments (Livingston County, City of Cortland, and Cayuga County). In his role as Director of Finance and Administration at the City of Cortland, he also functioned as the Chief Financial Officer.
In these roles, Nick developed expertise in assessing, developing, and implementing cost-saving measures for local government. He also has extensive experience in directing labor relations and managing municipal accounting and financial functions. Nick received his B.S. in Business and Public Management (Magna Cum Laude) from the State University of New York at Utica/Rome, and his M.A. in Public Administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
His community involvement and memberships include the Governor’s Task Force on Retiree Health Care, the International City/County Management Association, and the St. Agnes Church Parish Council in Avon, NY. Nick is currently a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR), as well as its Past-President. He has also served as President of the NYS Municipal Management Association and the NYS Association of County Administrators.
Carl Cadregari is an Executive Vice President and the Practice Lead of Bonadio’s IT/IS Enterprise Risk Management Team. Carl also serves as the Chief Information Security Director at one of the area’s largest insurance companies. Prior to joining Bonadio, Carl served as a Technical Marketing Manager with a $1 billion information technology supplier, a Business Development consultant with a national engineering and consulting firm, and a Systems Engineer with an international electronics distribution company.
Carl has more than 28 years of experience in Information Technology and Information Systems Security and Architecture, Deployment, Project Management, Security by Design, and Governance. His expertise in Technology Controls, Physical, Administrative, and Technical Security, System Development Life Cycling, Enterprise Risk Management, Business Impact Analysis, and Disaster Recovery Planning has been applied across companies with 10 to 17,000+ employees across almost all vertical markets. That, along with over 14 years in auditing and standards compliance experience in HIPAA, HITECH, Red Flag Rule, Sarbanes Oxley, SAS70/SSAE16, WebTrust, SysTrust, Graham-Leach Bliley, PCI DSS, ISO 27001/2, FERPA, FISMA controls, and the successful application of the best practices of ISACA, OWASP, CSA, GTAG, COBIT, COSO, OAG, OVAL, ITIL Foundation, and IIA/AICPA, creates a valuable and unique blend of talent.
He is a member of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), HIMSS, Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), Systems Administration Networking and Security Institute (SANS), and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).
He is a certified HIPAA Privacy and Security Auditor, Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and holds a Master Certification in Computer Forensics from the IEEE. Carl is a member on the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). He has also published articles on: The CIA Triad: Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability – Ethical Hacking for Internal Risk Management – Document Retention: How to Avoid Six Figure Legal Fees and Cloud Computing Audit and Security Requirements.
Tim Ball (Team Leader) is a manager in the Government Compliance and Labor Division. He provides a wide array of consulting and auditing services for the Government, Compliance and Labor Division.
He reviews and evaluates sensitive applicant case files and confidential financial documentation to support several counties in New York State relating to the detection and prevention of Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse. He has a great deal of experience in providing forensic and financial determinations for Medicaid, food stamp, and other Health Care and public assistance programs.
In addition, Tim has provided forensic accounting services to a wide variety of clients in numerous industries, and his experience includes testifying as an expert witness, representing benefit determinations in administrative law hearings and assisting clients with insurance claims associated with fraud and theft. He has also been a consultant to local governments and not-for-profits for assistance in strengthening their internal control structure and detecting and deterring fraud. Tim received his B.S. degree in accounting from Alfred University. Tim is also a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
Joseph Dillon is a Senior Forensic Accounting Consultant with the group. Previously he worked as an in-charge accountant in the Government Compliance and Labor division. He was educated at St. John Fisher College.
Commissioner Longworth earned respect among his peers as a Chief of Police which was reflected in his election as President of the Westchester County Chiefs of Police Association in 2000. Commissioner Longworth was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, and continues to be active with numerous other professional organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the FBI National Academy Association.
Upon his retirement from Dobbs Ferry Police Department, Commissioner Longworth established a successful law practice, where he represented a wide variety of clients, including public safety personnel injured during the atrocities of September 11, 2001. As the Westchester County Commissioner of Public Safety, Commissioner Longworth has led the Department into an era of providing expanded services to contracted municipal police services, school resource officers and unified in-service police training.
Commissioner Longworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Mercy College in 1991, and a Juris Doctorate from Pace University in 2002. He was admitted to practice law in both New York and Connecticut. Commissioner Longworth is also a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Lieutenant Jeffrey Weiss wrote the police procedures for the Westchester County Police and was involved with the consolidation of Mount Kisco’s police force with Westchester County’s. He is seen here in a photograph taken during a presentation he gave in 2014 explaining the reasons for the merger which was estimated to result in a savings of $2,438,478 over a five-year period.
That is the team and they have their charge – we look forward to seeing their results and reviewing their recommendations.