Two Jokes: One Humorous, One Laughable

“I inherited these obscene salaries!" - Supervisor Gromack

A Police Officer noticing a brand new BMW racing along at nearly 80 mph on Congers Road turned on his lights and pulled the driver over. Approaching the car, he noticed that there were five teenage girls in the car; the passenger in the front and the three in the back were all wide-eyed and white as ghosts.

The driver, obviously confused, said: "Like, Officer, I don't understand, I was doing, like, exactly the speed limit!   What, like, is the problem?"

The officer replied: "Don't you know that you were speeding? You should know that when you don't observe the speed limit you are a danger to other drivers."

"I know what the speed limit is. I was doing, like, eighty miles an hour, like, over there as it says on that sign!", the teenage driver replied huffingly.  "Are you giving me, like, a ticket? Is this, like, a joke? I'm telling my parents because, like, they pay your salary!"

The officer explained to her that "80" is the route number for Congers Road, not the speed limit, and then he asked if the other occupants of the car were ok as they all seemed to be trembling and hadn't uttered so much as a single peep. "This is not the end of the world", he said to them, "I'm just giving your friend a speeding ticket and a warning to all of you to slow down".

"Oh, they'll be all right in, like, a minute, officer", said the teenage driver, "before we turned on to Congers Road we, like, just came down 304".

                 And Now For Something Completely Different!
Monty Python's Flying Circus' 

The driver's parents do indeed pay for the policeman's salary. Lets go back to 2008 and an article in the NY Times entitled 'Crime May Not Pay, but in this Town (Clarkstown), Fighting It Sure Does' where we read:

In 2008, Chief Noonan made $332,529.88. 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 Police Department, with those 50 earning roughly $10 million, or about $200,000 each on average.  Supervisor Gromack called the police salaries "obscene".

The article continued: 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 "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. "He ( Noonan) may well be the highest-paid chief in the country, surpassing even L.A., New York, Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Detroit,” said Chief Jack L. Rinchich, president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. "Those salaries are astounding — I’ve never heard anything in that range. It’s a heck of a package. I mean, we have a chief in West Virginia making $7 an hour.”

Clarkstown’s supervisor, Alexander Gromack, always looking on the sunny side of the street, called the department "proficient", and said that "Clarkstown’s Police Department is covering the entire Town on its own and so is doing the job of two or more departments".

The Superisor may be walking on the sunny side of the street but I'm completely in the dark as to what he meant by that statement! ....... 

Still, he said, police compensation accounts for 25 percent of the Town’s budget, and puts an undue strain on a budget that he struggles to keep balanced. “I have the highest regard for the job they are doing,” Mr. Gromack said. “We have to protect the people of Clarkstown, but we also have to protect their pocketbooks.”

Perhaps predictably, Mr. Gromack blamed the situation on previous administrations, which he said allowed salaries and benefits to balloon with every contract negotiation. During his four 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.

Consider this, Clarkstown 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 that year.  He has the highest Rockland pension at $162,614. Second is his former chief, William Sherwood, whose pension is $162,037.

Let's wind forward to 2011 where we find that the joke continues unchecked ......

The present Police Chief, Michael Sullivan, is getting by on $260,000 managing a police force of about 160. Compare this with NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly whose present salary is $212,947. Kelly oversees 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 earns 22% more managing a force 0.4% the size of that managed by Kelly. Or consider this comparison: New York's governor, Cuomo, ranks 2nd highest paid among all U.S. governors' salaries. Cuomo earns $179,000.  Sullivan earns 45% more than NY State's governor.

And it's 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.

Meanwhile to support this profligate joke on its citizens, Clarkstown has now made it into the Top Five rank of most taxed counties in the USA. The following is a list of the highest median property taxes (along with its median home values) in the top 5 counties nationwide, according to the Tax Foundation’s rankings.

1. Nassau County, N.Y.: $8,478; $494,000
2. Westchester County, N.Y.: $8,474; $562,700
3. Hunterdon County, N.J.: $8,413; $453,100
4. Bergen County, N.J.: $8,269; $486,200
5. Rockland County, N.Y.: $8,084; $482,300

(Source: “Group Ranks Nassau No. 1 in Property Taxes,” Newsday April 26, 2011)

Rockland County is 5th in median property taxes paid on homes and also 6th in taxes as a percent of income but you don't hear the Town Board trumpeting that laughable fact.  These are numbers that Supervisor Gromack and the present Town Board can no longer blame on their predecessors  - this is occurring on their watch.  Take, for example, the latest contract negotiations with the Police Benevolent Association which were recently concluded on their watch. 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.

That's no joke, or maybe it is? Can you believe that Clarkstown's police salaries are being discussed as far away as North Dakota!  In N.D. people think these salaries are a REALLY BIG joke!   Me, I just think it is laughable that North Dakota finds our 'jokes' humorous ..........

According to the Journal News: The Clarkstown Police Benevolent Association, comprising approximately 160 members, asked for a 5.5 percent increase for the period.  "It wasn't what we would have written," Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said. "We were hoping for a lower number.During the arbitration hearings, the town discussed decreased revenue, tax challenges, attempts to consolidate departments and reduce employees, and local opposition to salary increases saying that the average salary of a police officer was $142,000.   But the  PBA representative countered that the town was healthy, had a high bond rating, and had the 'wherewithal' to pay for the increase from the Town's reserve and fund balance.

Wait a minute!  Didn't Councilman Borelli say the Town had of debt?

"By every indication, Clarkstown police officers are among the highest paid in the nation," the panel said. "When one calculates the daily rate of pay for Clarkstown police officers, including the various time-off and leave provisions, these numbers become appreciable." The panel said, however, that it found it very difficult to deny the raises "when the record documents that the town possesses the ability to fund the increases awarded herein."

Yes, indeed, Supervisor that Triple A bond rating with all the things that with it and the PBA is certainly happy to quote him that the Town does indeed have the 'wherewithal' to pay.  The 'wherewithal' being of course the Town's ability to increase its debt for future payment by the citizens of Clarkstown by using that Triple A bond rating to pay for past years' police salaries with revenue from future years' tax receipts.  

is alive and well!

Here is how the joke continues - the Town and the Police Department now have to negotiate a new contract for 2012! 

This 'joke' is in danger of becoming 'farce'!

Which makes me wonder why, as a contract expires, those who hold the contract do not exercise their option to not renew it.  In the Corporate world one is offered pink slips and out-placement counseling when one's services can no longer be afforded.   

One might expect therefore that Clarkstown's police representatives would take note of this possibility and offer Clarkstown's taxpayers a 'break' in their 2012 contract negotiations. The PBA does NOT hold all of the cards even if the only thing the Town Board seems to be capable and willing of bringing to the negotiations is 'hope'

Hopefulness with the Town Board is verging on becoming a bad habit!

The Town might begin these contract negotiations with the issuance of pink slips to 10% of the members of the Police department. Those whose services can no longer be afforded may need time to prepare their resumes for re-employment in, perhaps, New York City at more reasonable salary and benefit levels.   After all if the Town Board can issue a pink slip to one of its  ending her contract to perform tax certiorari matters, the Board members must know in which drawer the Town's pink slips are kept. 

Given the PBA holds as its negotiating position that .......

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good"

as Gordon Gekko put it in the movie 'Wall Street', Mr Gromack, as the chief 'officer' of the Town might hold to the position .......

"This is not the end of the world, I'm just giving some of your friends pink slips with a warning to all of you to slow down".

Otherwise, Supervisor Gromack, the taxpayers of Clarkstown will be giving you and your fellow Board members well-deserved pink slips and one-way tickets to speed out of Clarkstown.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Scott Donovan May 04, 2012 at 09:09 AM
Maureen May 04, 2012 at 10:29 AM
If members of the police department put in hours of overtime in the last year before retirement to deliberately pump up their pensions I call that THEFT! And those who permit the practice I call CONSPIRATORS! This is my definition of WHITE COLLAR CRIME! And when this GREED drives seniors out of their homes because they can't pay the taxes I call that SHAMEFUL. Get rid of 10% of the police NOW and use that money to get rid of the town's $95MM DEBT! I call that a SOLUTION that kills TWO birds with ONE stone!
Mike Hirsch May 04, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Good point. The PBA and the local politicos have a symbiotic relationship which both benefit from. The arbitration process is a farce.
Scott Walters May 04, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I am proud to say that I have never voted for Grom'HACK' or the other dems on the board....:)
Maureen May 05, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Scott, pride goes before a fall! I'm not sure it matters who you voted for - the republicans are no better! They only independent vote I saw recently was Hausner's vote against bringing in the head of the Bronx GOP, Jay Savino, to do OUR tax cert work. And she's a Dem! But as I see it they are all in the same bed together with one or two people manipulating the lot of them behind the scenes.  Look who controls the party lines they run on and you will know who tells them what to do.  The town seems unable to make difficult decisions and it appears when they not they are putting their town jobs and the income it brings them ahead of the public interest.  So ok they blame the past administration or they shove the problem off to someone else they can blame -  the arbitrators.  Who cares?  The fact is the town board members are the ones whom we elected but they slink off into a corner and  claim someone else did it not them.  Borelli is trying to appear to be the white knight saving us from rising debt which I see that is close to $100 million. Wow!!  But will he get rid of Ed Lettre who, from what I read, doesn't prepare a budget proposal that anyone either believes or will hold him to.  We, the citizens, employ the police and the other town workers and we need to have some significant layoffs now to bring fiscal sense to what is going on.  We have all been laid off at one time or another too - why are the people that I am paying for immune? BTW Lettre has a line.


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