MIDNIGHT OUTRAGE: City Manager and Police Commissioner Sneaking Pension Padding Scheme Through City Council Over Holiday Weekend

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Police Commissioner Carroll 200NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The City Manager, Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of New Rochelle are on the verge of one of the more despicable acts in recent City Hall history. And in this City, that's saying something.

It is so despicable that the two commissioners literally snuck into the City Council chambers on Tuesday, out of public view, off-camera, to present their scheme in an illegal executive session meeting. This was followed by the City Manager waiting until 6 p.m. on Friday to release the agenda for the Regular Legislative Meeting of the City Council this coming Tuesday. Of course, this is just not any Friday but the Friday leading into both a three-day weekend and the mid-winter break for area schools. There will be no public discussion of the Pension Padding Scheme until the item is brought up for a vote on Tuesday. There will be no no media coverage (except for Talk of the Sound) until after the vote has taken place. There will be no public hearings and no Citizens to be Heard.

This is a shameless attempt to slip in a lucrative pay raise and fat pension for friends of the City Manager.

This is not how honorable people operate. It is how criminals operate -- sneaking around, hoping no one will notice as they line their pockets with other people's money.

It needs to be stopped.

You are welcome to read the entire article but the bottom line is that this Pension Padding Scheme cannot be permitted and residents need to act immediately to stop it.

The only published phone number for a council member is the Mayor. He can be reached at City Hall at (914) 654-2150.

All members of council can be reached by e-mail. For those who have their numbers call and let them know you want this vote stopped until all interested parties, including the public, can be heard from.

Tell the members of City Council you want them to TABLE THE RESOLUTION UNTIL MARCH so that the Resolution can be discussed at the Committee of the Whole Meeting, be discussed by the public at Citizens to be Heard and then be voted on the following at the March Regular Legislative Meeting as is the normal course of action for Council resolutions.

Noam Bramson = nbramson@newrochelleny.com
Louis Trangucci = louistrangucci@aol.com
Albert Tarantino = ataranti@newrochelleny.com
Jared Rice = jared@jaredrice.org
Ivar Hyden = Ivar@IvarHyden.org
Barry Fertel = bfertel@newrochelleny.com
Shari Rackman = rackmandistrict6@aol.com

Section of 2013-0219 City Council Agenda for APC Position

Please do what you can to spread the word as best you can that Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll is attempting to push through a City Council resolution that is little more than cronyism and corruption masked as a "reorganization" of the New Rochelle Police Department. The real purpose of this supposed "reorganization" is primarily "pension padding" with the taxpayers once again on the hook but there is much more behind the Police Commissioners shenanigans.

If you are interested to know more you can read the following account:

The APC Pension Padding scheme first came to light in October when Talk of the Sound demanded documents to be discussed at the October Civil Service Commissioner meeting.

On the day the proposed job specifications for the proposed position of Assistant Police Commissioner were turned over to Talk of the Sound, the City Manager claims he showed Council Members a copy of an August memo from the Police Commissioner outlining the scheme.

A majority of Council Members interviewed by Talk of the Sound say they have no recollection of seeing such a memo.

The rubber-stamp Civil Service Commission approved the proposed APC Job Specification with less than 15 seconds of deliberation. The CSC Chairman, Domenic Procopio, is a close friend and political ally of the Police Commissioner. The pair have been having weekly lunches for well over a decade.

Inexplicably, rather than send the APC Job Specification on to the New York State Civil Service Commission for approval, City Manager Chuck Strome sent the APC Job Specification to the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), asking them to rule in advance whether the PERB would approve the APC Job Specification if it were adopted by the City of New Rochelle.

This is the equivalent of asking a judge to decide how he will rule on a murder case before anyone has been killed. There needs to be a crime for a judge to hear a case just as their needs to an issue to arbitrate before the PERB can hold an arbitration hearing.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the PERB refused to rule on the request from the City Manager.

So, how does Mr. Strome convey this maneuver to the City Council? That the PERB is somehow directing the City Council to pass a resolution authorizing the creation of the position of Assistant Police Commissioner.

In a memo to Council posted with the meeting agenda, Strome writes:

In August 2012 the Police Commissioner submitted a memo recommending a reorganization of the Police Department by changing the titles of the Police Captains to Assistant Police Commissioners. A copy of that memo is attached. I agree with the Police Commissioner's belief that the duties of Police Captain should be consider Managerial/Confidential and these positions should not be union positions. Currently, captains are members of the Superior Police Officers Association. (emphasis added)

On October 17, 2012 the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission took action to create the position of Assistant Police commissioner and approved the job specification for the position. The minutes of the Civil Service Commission and the job specification are both attached.

The City has filed a petition with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) to have the position of Assistant Police Commissioner determined to be Managerial/Confidential and as a result remove the positions from the union. PERB has informed us that the Assistant Police Commissioner positions should be filled prior to their determination on the petition.

As a result, City Council has to take action to establish the Assistant Police Commissioner position in the adopted 2013 budget as Non-represented position in salary grade 8.

RECOMMENDATION: It is recommended that the City Council adopt legislation establishing the Assistant Police Commissioner position in the adopted 2013 budget as a Non-represented position in salary grade 8.

Note that since Patrick Carroll became Police Commissioner there has been no case where a member of the Superior Officers Association had a discplinary hearing.

Look at that last part again:

"PERB has informed us that the Assistant Police Commissioner positions should be filled prior to their determination on the petition. As a result, City Council has to take action to establish the Assistant Police Commissioner position in the adopted 2013 budget as Non-represented position in salary grade 8.

This a perversion. Tortured logic and its finest. The City Council does not have to do anything.

In other words, the City Manager is saying "we got the cart before the horse by going to the PERB and they told us we had the cart before the horse and therefore the City Council 'has to take action'. How do you go from the City Manager went out of order to the City Council must create a new, high-level position in the City government.

Rather than share this absurd argument with the public during the Committee of the Whole Meeting of the City Council on February 12th, Strome sneaks the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner into an Executive Session of City Council on the specious grounds that because individuals will be impacted by the proposed reorganization the entire discussion should be withheld from the public.

This is contradicted by some rather obvious facts.

The police department reorganization was the subject of a public meeting of the Municipal Civil Service Commission and already deemed to be a public matter. I interviewed Police Commissioner Carroll and City Manager Chuck Strome about this matter at length and have written several articles about it. The departmental reorganization will also be the subject of a public meeting of the New York State Civil Service Commission should the day come when the APC Job Specification is considered by the NYS CSC. The resolution now proposed is public as will any vote this coming Tuesday.

When questioned about the legal basis for discussing public business in secret, Strome said Corporation Counsel Kathleen Gill determined that the executive session was legal because the City Council discussed specific employees and funding of their positions and that Council will have to approve to put and fund the Assistant Commissioner positions in the budget.

This is utter nonsense. The issue is not whether a discussion of creating or abolishing a position impacts a particular person. That is always the case. The issue is whether the discussion focuses on a "particular person" and how well or poorly an individual has performed his or her duties.

The City Council routinely discusses budget matters that impact personnel. 70% of the City Budget is for salaries and related costs. Most discussions of the City Council have some impact on personnel.

So far, the City Manager has failed to address a request to square that claim with the New York State Committee on Open Government Advisory Opinion OML-AO-3474. I would encourage you to click the link and read the entire opinion but here are the highlights.

COOG Executive Director Robert Freeman writes "When a discussion by a public body involves consideration of a budget, I believe that it must be conducted in public. Often a discussion concerning the budget has an impact on personnel. Nevertheless, despite its frequent use, the term "personnel" appears nowhere in the Open Meetings Law. It is true that one of the grounds for entry into executive session often relates to personnel matters. From my perspective, however, the term is overused and is frequently cited in a manner that is misleading or causes unnecessary confusion."

Freeman goes on to note how public bodies often use the so-called "personnel" exception, §105(1)(f) of the Open Meetings Law to justify doing the public's business in secret, going on to say "the provision was intended largely to protect privacy and not to shield matters of policy under the guise of privacy."

That is precisely the case here.

The secret meeting on Tuesday was not to discuss specific individuals but to discuss the justification for creating new positions in the police department in the adopted 2013 budget and providing funding for those positions. That any particular individual's name was even mentioned would have been purely tangential to such a discussion.

Even if there was any legitimate discussion of a particular individual that required Executive Session the Council should have had the entire discussion in public session as a regular agenda discussion item and then entertained a motion to go into executive session briefly to discuss any confidential matter regarding a particular individual and then come right back out. Instead, the City Council threw the baby out with the bathwater -- the baby here being the public's right to know, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money.

Corporation Counsel Kathleen Gill claims that the Executive Session was legal because the City Council discussed specific employees and funding of their positions and that Council will have to approve to put and fund the Assistant Commissioner positions in the budget.

That's exactly why the discussion should have been public, according to Robert Freeman.

"When a discussion concerns matters of policy, such as the manner in which public money will be expended or allocated, the functions of a department or perhaps the creation or elimination of positions, I do not believe that §105(1)(f) could be asserted, even though the discussion may relate to "personnel".

Could Freeman be more clear?

He continues:

"If a discussion of possible layoffs relates to positions and whether those positions should be retained or abolished, the discussion would involve the means by which public monies would be allocated. In none of the instances described would the focus involve a "particular person" and how well or poorly an individual has performed his or her duties. To reiterate, in order to enter into an executive session pursuant to §105(1)(f), I believe that the discussion must focus on a particular person (or persons) in relation to a topic listed in that provision (emphasis added).

The Police Captains in question are Captains Schaller, Kealy and Gazzola. Strome refers to the APC as "their" positions in his response to Talk of the Sound.

The position of Police Captain is already funded so there is no reason for Council to discuss funding existing positions that are already funded in the current budget. Even if there were, the City Council routinely discusses the funding for various positions. In fact, the City has entire hearings devoted to that each year during budget season. They are called budget hearings and they impact every person working for the City and they take place in public.

There is currently no position of Assistant Police Commissioner. So, there is no "their" when it comes to the APC positions because no one is in those positions. No one has been appointed to this position because the position does not exist.

Perhaps "their" means the Council was discussing funding of a proposed position called "Assistant Police Commissioner "per the Police Commissioner's August 2012 memo and the APC Job Spec approved by the CSC in October 2012. If that is the case then the use of the word "their" does not apply.

No matter how you slice it, this argument does not hold water.

At least one change has come about due to Talk of the Sound reporting on this farce. After falsely claiming for months the City Council has no role in the reorganization of a City department, that the City Manager can act unilaterally with Council input or approval, the City Manager is now admitting that the City Council does have a decisive role in such a reorganization. They can vote not to include the new position in the adopted 2013 budget.

The City Manager admits now that the reorganization cannot occur with the approval of City Council when he states the City Council has to vote to approve putting the new position in the budget and to fund that position.

In other words, the City Council has a mechanism through which it can block this proposed reorganization should it wish to do so. Further, that it would not be correct to say that the City Manager can, on his own authority, carry out this reorganization. The opposite is the case.

Council members might want to consider how reliable the City Manager has been on this subject and what it suggests about his veracity overall in regards to this charade.

Of course, this Scheme goes beyond pension padding.

1. The salary range for the new position will allow Captain's salaries to skyrocket from the $140's to over $170,000 so that not only will Captains get a much larger percentage of their salary as their pension when they retire (going from 50% to over 70%, depending their years of service) but the salary itself will be much larger. A large piece of a much larger pie.

2. This will eliminate any retirement age for the position of Captain/APC.

§ 58-4 1B of the New Rochelle City Code states: "Each member of the police force shall retire upon reaching his 62nd birthday."

Captain Schaller turned 62 last summer. Captain Kealy will turn 62 soon. The City Manager has made the preposterous claim that because New York State increased the retirement age for the State pension program, known as 384-d, to age 65 in 2009 that the retirement age in New Rochelle is now 65. This is completely false. The State pension system does not decide the retirement age for New Rochelle, the City Council makes that decision and they have which is why § 58-4 1B is in the City Code.

3. As noted, the City Manager has stopped telling Council Members they have no role in the reorganization of the police department, a clear contradiction of the City Charter.

Section 59 of the New Rochelle City Charter states that the Police Department "shall as to their membership and organization remain as now constituted until the same shall be changed by the Council."

4. Eliminate Civil Service protections for Captains while weakening the Superior Officers Association by removing the three most senior members.

Proposed New Rochelle Police Reorganization Would Stand Captain's Eligibility List on its Head

Consider the impact on morale. Consider the impact on younger Lieutenants who are now going to be blocked for many, many years from advancing on the department. Will our best and brightest now leave? Who will be left? Will we end up with a department run by octogenarians?

5. One of the primary justifications for the proposed reorganizations is the supposed conflict of interest of police captains in disciplinary hearings where they might be a hearing officer in a case involving a fellow member of the Superior Officers Association. As noted above, since Patrick Carroll became Police Commissioner this situation has occurred ZERO times. There were two cases where Sergeants were arrested on criminal charges but there was no disciplinary hearing needed due to the charges against them.

6. A large part of this has to do with the New Rochelle Police Foundation which Patrick Carroll controls and uses to extract large sums of money from local businesses.

There are other angles to this but suffice to say this is an elaborate scheme meant to enrich public employees at the expense of taxpayers and need be stopped in its track.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

WhifnPoof on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 20:32

Not to make a long story tedious but its time
for a new broom to sweep clean!!! Let these
high salaried administrators take their
fat retirement benefits and run. Allowing
more personnel to obtain higher benefits
only chokes the taxpayer more.

KEN on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 15:46

Bramson is to blame for this entire mess. He wants to be county exec. when he can't even control his manager. You talk about open government, transparency. Watch. This will pass without any public discussion except for the fraudulent civil service meeting. Rev. Leak should be ashamed of himself for being part of that.

NewRochelleUSED... on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 11:50

whom will he appoint in his own image when he moves on to bigger and better corruption?

Are the citizens of New Rochelle prepared for three more terms of Idoni III and no revitalization of downtown New Rochelle?

Want to take bets what we're talking about at TOTS in the year 2025?

Martin Sanchez's picture
Martin Sanchez on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 03:01
Title: injunction

From the information provided, it seems that PERB has not ruled on Chuck's request. Hence, I cannot imagine Chuck' suggestion that PERB has agreed to go ahead and filled the position. Sure would love to see PERB's memo to Chuck. In my 20 yrs of labor relations experience, it would be highly irregular to have PERB make this kind of preliminary "recommendation". So, show me Chuck.
Given the hurry-up effort by Chuck, Pat and Noam (what is his opinion on this), and the lack of proper public notice, one council member and/or the police officer's and/or the Captain's union should file a temporary restraining order sometime tomorrow (help Jim Maisano).
If Chuck, Noam and Pat are allow to do this, it would set a precedent with other collectively bargained units.

Martin Sanchez's picture
Martin Sanchez on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 03:01
Title: injunction

From the information provided, it seems that PERB has not ruled on Chuck's request. Hence, I cannot imagine Chuck' suggestion that PERB has agreed to go ahead and filled the position. Sure would love to see PERB's memo to Chuck. In my 20 yrs of labor relations experience, it would be highly irregular to have PERB make this kind of preliminary "recommendation". So, show me Chuck.
Given the hurry-up effort by Chuck, Pat and Noam (what is his opinion on this), and the lack of proper public notice, one council member and/or the police officer's and/or the Captain's union should file a temporary restraining order sometime tomorrow (help Jim Maisano).
If Chuck, Noam and Pat are allow to do this, it would set a precedent with other collectively bargained units.

Bob McCaffrey on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 01:46

There is a lot more at work in City Hall than the asbestos abatement, I think it is time they keep cleaning and rid City Hall of all the contaminants that fester and infect the halls, offices and especially those backrooms where the hidden wheeling and dealing goes on. Now more than ever, especially since it seems to affect City Hall, The Police Commissioners office and the New Rochelle Board of Education. City Hall is in need of an enema.

The City Manager waiting until 6 p.m. on Friday to release the agenda for the Regular Legislative Meeting of the City Council this coming Tuesday? This is just like all the press releases and meeting information that seem to skate the close line of hidden agendas and back room politics. I know the response from City Hall already; this is just the perception of some people. Well, to me perception is everything and is or eventually becomes reality.

I have spoken time after time about the poor communication and the back door games that go on at City Hall. Back at Thanksgiving a media notice for a press conference with very poor timing was sent out the day before a holiday. Some advanced notice to the media sent was sent out Tuesday, November 20, 2012 6:43 PM for a media event at 3:00 PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Once is an error and can be excused, but the habit of controlling the message and information that is released through City Hall is unacceptable. Go back and track most controversial releases, they all happen in the same manner.

Who sets the priorities for things in New Rochelle? Where is there a vision or in-sight? Who asks how and why? Is it done by Donations, friendships, pet projects, something is rotten in Denmark/New Rochelle? Monroe, Iona, Capelli, Trump, Forest City, City Yard, Good Profit and the Diner on Weyman Ave seem to get what they need. Why not the average New Rochellian?

The City of New Rochelle has been pushed to the brink of disaster in all areas. It is time for this City Council to step up as I have asked in the past and govern as they promised when elected. We need to follow the City Charter again and work on review of our code of ethics and make sure it is being followed. Perception is everything. New Rochelle is perceived as failing!

-If you don’t see this you are blind, ignorant or part of the problem.

Maybe we need a committee formed to tutor The Mayor, City Manager, City Council and the City Staff on the City Charter and The City Code of Ethics. Ethics reform is an entire seminar on its own. No one wants to touch that one. Get it right first. Enough already!

New Rochelle needs a coherent vision for growing its downtown and attracting new jobs, for cutting government waste and inefficiency. We need to bring the people together, not separate them as has happened over the years. We need leaders with a vision for the future of New Rochelle and its citizens. Only a few council members have stepped up. Stop the backroom games and tricks. Stop the 5-2 party line vote and stand up for yourselves and the over taxed residents of your districts.

“Common sense for the Common Good”

Govtruth on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 19:54

Please..... all citizens need to contact their council people now! Since Carroll has been the commissioner, the morale has dropped to zero in the police department. That is why, you see police cars parked in parking lots and other places. Because NO OFFICER has morale to go out there and work!!!!. This act will be the final straw to bring the police personnel to its needs. Why does Carroll hand out identification cards to it's business owners who belong to his foundation and these identification cards open the back the door to the police department where they can gain access to the weapons. Because he is a MAD MAN!!!! In the summer time when Carroll is supposed to be running his police department, do you know where he is????? Clue....... where people golf. Yep!!! You're right!!! The golf range!. It's the running joke in the police department from the captains to the civilians. STOP THIS MADNESS!.
I'm angry, you should be too.... enough is enough!

Citizen Observer on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 21:14

Let the truth be told, I have personally witnessed the Police commisioner Carrol getting a free haircut at Georges hair salon, in lieu of giving
Police cards as he signed them of some sort to the employees.
And how many free rounds of golf does he play at Wykagyl per year, call the manager and ask him.
New Rochelle Is truly in decline. And unless the Mayor, council and taxpayers wake up, it wont be getting any better soon!

Citizen Observer on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 17:35

Yes we do need to reorganize our police Department, starting With our current Police commisioner.
No less than 3 patrol cars and the critical incident unit were parked in the Starbucks lot for more than an hour last week this happens constantly.
And why are they Parked at Wykagyl Country Club all the time?
Is it the wifi? Just being lasy? Or not having good leadership?
The citizens of New Rochelle deserve better from their police force.
Patrol cars, there called! not, Parked cars!

Tara on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 04:51

Why is the Police Commissioner and Police Department allowed to create Assistant Commissioner positions while the Fire Department was changed from having a Commisssioner to a Chief. Why is this lopsided activity taking place? Whose pockets are being greased? Enough is enough. The Police Commissioner position should be changed to a Police Chief position.

Ralph M on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 17:36

Its because Chuck is the new Fire Commissioner

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