FROM: The Journal News – White Plains, N.Y: Author: Hema Easley, April 2009
The top 50 wage earners in the town of Clarkstown worked for the police department and collectively made about $10 million in 2008.
The highest paid among them was Capt. Thomas Purtill, who earned $335,676.88 in 2008 while working two days a week because of a disability. Purtill, who retired in March after 35 years in the police department, spent three days a week receiving physical therapy.
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack did not make it to the list with his annual income of $153,000.
Police Chief Peter Noonan made $332,529.88, and Capt. Robert G. Mahon earned $311,369.67. Their income included their salary, overtime, and payouts for unused vacation and sick days.
The salary information was provided by the town of Clarkstown following a Freedom of Information Law request. The Journal News is asking municipalities in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties to provide salary data for their 50 highest-paid officials.
Clarkstown police officials are among the most highly compensated in the region, Gromack said. In Clarkstown, the largest town in the county, an entry-level police officer makes a base salary of $61,905. In Ramapo, the next-largest town, entry-level police officers make $40,418 a year in base pay; in the Orangetown Police Department, a new recruit makes $43,475.
Clarkstown Police Department salaries have crept up over the past two decades over consecutive contracts, Gromack said.
Their most recent four-year contract that expired last year gave Policemen’s Benevolent Association members a 3.7 percent annual raise, down from a yearly 4 percent in the previous contract, Gromack said. The police department is currently without a contract, and the town and the PBA are negotiating a new one keeping in mind the current economic realities, Gromack said.
“While they are certainly highly paid, there should be some recognition that Clarkstown has been rated one of most safe communities in the nation. You have to put that in the mix,” he said. “There is a professionalism we pay for. We also recognize that these are very difficult economic times, and we are negotiating new numbers.”
Other figures in the FOIL response showed a total of 15 police officers made more than $200,000 in 2008. The lowest-paid officer among the top 50 earned $169,304.58.
An estimated 147 police officers in Clarkstown’s 173-strong police department will make more than $100,000 in base salaries in 2009, not including overtime and other earnings.
The police department’s approximately $30 million budget makes up 23.25 percent of the town’s $129 million budget. In 2008, the town spent $25.6 million out of its $124.5 million budget on police salaries, overtime and other compensations.
The salary numbers astounded and outraged Gerry O’Rourke, president of the Congers Civic Association. He said the times demanded a new contract that would include no further increases and a cap on salaries.
“This is an example of excess beyond belief,” said O’Rourke, who sometimes writes about tax issues in the association’s newsletter. “I don’t begrudge the police a salary that is commensurate with the dangers and other issues they face. If the Town Board doesn’t stand up and say ‘No More,’ they should be voted out of office.”
Noonan said overtime, accumulated sick leave and additional pay for working on holidays accounted for a portion of the earnings. Police officers are entitled to 24 sick days a year, and they can request payment for unused sick days and vacation after they complete 20 years of service, he said.
Noonan’s own 2008 package included $289,947.12 in base pay, and an additional $41,732 for unused vacation and sick days, and previous overtime he hadn’t received payment for. Police chiefs do not receive overtime. He also received an $840 allowance for equipment.
Mahon’s base salary in 2008 was $259,642.30. He also received $50,877.27 in sick leave, vacation and holiday buybacks, and $850 for equipment.
Noonan and the town’s director of finance, Amy Vargas, declined to give details of Purtill’s package; a separate Freedom of Information Law request dealing specifically with Purtill’s retirement, pension and severance package is pending. Purtill’s lawyer, Maureen McNamara, did not return two phone messages seeking comment.
The income of other officers included a sizable boost from overtime, which is paid at 1.5 percent of base salary. In accordance with their contracts, police officers can receive pay for overtime hours they did not work.
Under a clause that has been in every contract since 1995, police officers who work on their days off will be guaranteed a minimum of four hours of overtime, even if they work fewer hours.
On days off, officers could be called in for a court case or to investigate a crime scene. Other officers have specialities like canine training or public affairs and can be called in while off duty.
Their work time includes the time taken to dress up and drive to work.
Noonan said such rules were not unusual for police departments or private entities, like utility companies.
Even though overtime money was good, it was a hardship for police officers because they often had to cancel plans with their families at a moment’s notice, or give up holidays because the job demanded it.
“It sounds like a good deal, but it’s not as good as you think,” Noonan said.
Top 10 wage earners in Clarkstown
Thomas Purtill, police captain, $335,676.96
Peter Noonan, police chief, $332,529.88
Robert G. Mahon, police captain, $311,369.67
Thomas Prendergast, police lieutenant, $275,642.67
Charles T. Delo, police lieutenant, $233,208.77
Juan A. Rocha, police detective, $221,912.04
Harry A. Baumann, administrative sergeant, $221,681,18
Daniel M. Weisberg, police lieutenant, $219,348.82
Steven T. Morgan, police lieutenant, $217,047.86
Bernard J. Cummings, police sergeant, $216,010.66