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The Joke Is On You!

The salaries may be “obscene’ but the Town has raised them a further 13%. (Drawing by Patrick Long)


In an article entitled ‘ I observed that in 2008, the then Chief of Clarkstown Police, Peter Noonan, 'earned' $332,529.88. He was not even the highest paid police officer; one of his two captains earned $335,676 and another 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" but also said that the department was "proficient", and was "covering the entire Town on its own and so is doing the job of two or more departments". 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.”

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.

Mr Gromack has now gone through two cycles of negotiations with the PBA and what has he accomplished?

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, 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."  The arbitration panel admitted that "by every indication, Clarkstown police officers are among the highest paid in the nation. When one calculates the daily rate of pay for Clarkstown police officers, including the various time-off and leave provisions, these numbers become appreciable."

How well did Supervisor Gromack fare in his recent negotiations with the PBA for the five year period January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2017?  According to New City Patch the a new five-year agreement with the Rockland County Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association with 2.5 percent increases each year. The union voted on it late Tuesday afternoon, May 15, 2012 and passed it.  The resolution to approve the agreement was a “late addition” to the Town Board's agenda the same evening. 

Writing in the Our Town newspaper on May 23, 2012, Anne Pinzow reported that the Clarkstown Police would receive an additional 13% raise over the next five years and the Town saved, according to Supervisor Gromack, $25,000 by not having to go to arbitration!   To put this 'savings' into perspective it is akin to being told that one’s weekly grocery bill of $100 will increase by 13 percent over the next five years but you will not be charged for the plastic bags in which you pack the groceries and so you will save the grand sum of 3 cents per week.

And what did the Town get in return for granting a 13 percent raise to the police?  More efficiencies? No!  More random drug tests?  Yes! 

Our Town reports that “the number of random drug tests was increased from three to five a year as a ‘grant’ to the Town but this is at the discretion of the Police Chief and captains".

What is the average taxpayer to make of such a 'grant'? Is one to conclude that with these increased, ‘obscene’ salaries police officers might be tempted to smoke pot and hence the Supervisor might need additional random drug tests at the "discretion" of the Police Chief?  It makes one wonder at whose "discretion" does the Police Chief, Michael Sullivan, get tested?

After all, logic would dictate that temptation is greatest among those whose salaries are the most 'obscene'.  Sullivan earns $260,000 managing a police force of less than 160 while NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, whose salary is $212,947, 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. 

In an opinion piece in the same edition of Our Town under the heading 'In Clarkstown PBA Pact, Send in the Clones' Frank Grandel writes:

“Once again political corruption has reared its ugly head in Clarkstown”. 

Commenting on the fact that within hours of the agreement with the PBA the Town Board held a rapid ‘politburo-like’ vote, Grandel continued:

“Supervisor Gromack and board continue to undermine the , adding numerous resolutions to the agenda at the , intending to purposely hide their unethical behavior from public scrutiny.” 

The Town Board agenda item to which Mr. Grandel referred read innocently: 'Approving a memorandum of agreement with the Clarkstown PBA'.  The public was thus given a couple of hours notice and a nine word statement that Supervisor Gromack had again given away the store.

Mr Grandel went on to note that this was a repeat performance of what occurred last year after an arbitration settlement with the same union and that Gromack:

“gave away over $8½ millions in salary increases in less than one year.  Town employees in return contribute to his re-election campaign, political endorsements and a bloc vote to keep this career politician in office, to continue this cycle of legal extortion of taxpayers. No concessions were achieved, only increased guaranteed salary, overtime and sick-pay payments.”

What Mr Grandel could also have mentioned is that unions are private groups and they are not required legally to hold their meetings in public. But under the Open Meetings law if a majority of Town Board attends negotiations with a union and wishes that the meetings be open to the public, then they must be so.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Clarkstown Town Board used the Open Meetings Law to its own advantage in negotiations with the unions instead of hiding in the shadows and then trying to rush votes past the citizens without due public notice?  

If Supervisor Gromack cared about controlling "obscene" salaries he might think a little outside of the box. He has added to the salary obscenity on his watch and the continues unabated.

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.

Clarkstown has 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.  Over the past five years home prices in Clarkstown fell by just under 25% and there was no increase in the Social Security Cost of Living Adustment (COLA) for 2010 and 2011 because the Consumer Price Index, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor, for those years did not increase above the level of the third quarter of 2008, the last year a COLA was determined.

While Supervisor Gromack and his ‘Yes!-board’ of clones have been handing out increases to very highly paid Town employees, those who have been paying the bills have seen no increase in their net income in the same time period and have seen their homes, on which the Town assesses how much they should pay in taxes, decline in value by 25%.

Supervisor Gromack can no longer blame his predecessors for the present "obscene" salaries.  They are now all his!

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.

INTHEKNOW May 29, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Marcus, Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer from Hull... it doesn't fit his agenda of Gromack bashing. Gromack got a 5 year deal locked in that is much less than Ramapo got, and exactly what Spring Valley just got after arbitration. He saved the town the cost of arbitration ( lawyer fees, staff research, etc.. of $100,000) and held the line. Hull doesn't even have his facts correct, as his comments on drug testing are simply wrong -- and his inference that the police are likely to use Marihuana, especially the Chief, are typical of the name calling and buffoonery that keep normal civic minded people from joining his group.
INTHEKNOW May 29, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Yes, how dare our police stop you as you speed down the road!!! Don't they know who you are??? The speed limit is set by the state, and I belive, the money collected from tickets goes to the state as well. Maybe you can talk to the girl who lost her mom last year on Rt 304 when she was hit head on and ask her what she thinks about enforcing the laws?
Brenda M May 29, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Intheknow Is what Ramapo got relevant?  The whole lot are paid way out of line for other police communities especially that of NY City.   Hell, the NY cops are dying to get jobs here.  If the  Town of Ramapo raised their taxes by 100 % would you think it was great if ours only went up 95%? Also I would have spent the $100,000.  This is is a trivial amount compared to what we are going to be out in additional salaries over 5 years!  That adds up to millions Look at the Our Town and other articles and that is exactly what is reported there.   Gromack got more drug testing of the police.      Why?  Does he need it?  If not why was it such a great deal in terms of the amount the Town gave away in salary increases and future pension costs.   I can't understand what this grant thing was all about.  Someone please explain it to me.  Lastly I am not guaranteed a 2.5% increase in my income for the next five years but I am guaranteed that my taxes will go up.   Those who can't logically respond to the points may be found out to be the true buffoons at the end of the day. 
INTHEKNOW May 29, 2012 at 09:27 PM
What Ramapo got is relevant because an arbitrator looks at what other depts get when making a decision. Ramapo set the line at 4% and that means that Clarkstown might have gotten 4% as well, but would have gotten at least 3.5% In fact, that is what they got in arbitration less then two years ago, and the economy has only gotten better since then. You're completely wrong with you " paid out of line with other communities" comment.. the cops are all within a few thousand of each other in Rockland/Bergen/Westchester. As for city cops dying to get jobs here.. the test is given every few years and most Rockland cops are former city cops... A decent salary is what attracts lots of applicants and ensures a good group to select from. If you know a city cop, chances are he took the test for Rockland, Westchester/Bergen as well. As for the drug testing, If I read right, the town agreed to a change that no longer requires them to 10 officers each month, but allows them to test "up to 10". How you can interpret that to mean "Gromack got more drug testing of the police" is beyond me. This saves the town money as they don't have to pay for ten tests a month, but can pick any number they choose, up to ten. This too saves money, but you probably will complain about that too.
Brenda M May 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM
"This saves the town money as they don't have to pay for ten tests a month, but can pick any number they choose, up to ten" Keep going with the nickel and dimes savings. Soon you will balance out the million dollars of salary increases over the next five years!
Michael N. Hull May 30, 2012 at 02:06 AM
INTHEKNOW:  You write that my comments are "typical of the name calling and buffoonery that keep normal civic minded people from joining his group". To which group are you referring?   YOUSHOULDKNOW that I belong to two theological/philosophical groups, one music group, one theatre group, and two politically oriented groups.  I write on a wide range of topics on behalf of NONE of them and all of the opinions I express are WHOLLY my own and are written under my own name. As to "Gromack bashing" -  On the issue of blaming 'obscene' (his word) salaries on his predecessors with the record he has now established he deserves some 'bashing' whatever that means. You might decide to ask him if the salaries were 'obscene' when he took office are they 'less obscene' today? As to my use of parody to lampoon Clarkstown police salaries I would invite you to come with me to Northern Manor where I go once or twice a day and see the service that the nurses, aides and other staff provide there for about 1/4 of the average salary a Clarkstown police officer makes.  Daily care of incontinent elderly people deserves more than a pittance salary.   Or come with me up to Green Chimneys which is a school for troubled youth and see the work done by the staff there for salaries that are about 1/3 that of a Clarkstown police officer. Then we can talk about the obscenity of the compensation we are providing to the police and the obscenity of the taxation of our elderly to pay for them.
INTHEKNOW May 30, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Why don't you write about how the staff at Northern Manor makes more than the staff at a comparable facility in Iowa? You seem to use that argument when complaining about public sector salaries?
Michael N. Hull May 30, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Excellent question! I can't help you with Iowa but I have the information for a nursing home in which I have a relative in Indiana.   The average aide there earns about 20% less than for Northern Manor and the average police salary is 50% less.  In Rockland County the police make 4 times that of a nursing home aide and in Indiana the police make 2.5 times more.    If that was the situation in Clarkstown I wouldn't be 'complaining' as you phrase it. This will have to be my last comment to you. Thank you for your interest.
Watchdog May 30, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Working a 5 day week, the cops are actually "on the job" less than 1/2 of the year. 5 days x 52 = 260 days less the 81 days they get off each year according to the contract. That means the Clarkstown Cops are "on the job" 179 days out of 365. Now don't you feel sorry for them when they tell you about all the birthday parties they missed? The poor things, how could we be so inconsiderate?
Watchdog May 30, 2012 at 07:17 PM
This was the last contract as far as time off for Clarkstown cops. Not sure what is in the new one Gromacknegotiated in secret. 30 VACATION DAYS 24 SICK DAYS 7 PERSONAL DAYS 8 BEREAVEMENT DAYS 12 HOLIDAYS You would would think that Gromack could of negotiated some of this away? In the private sector, I do not know of a singe company that gets this number of days off. Gromack has sold us down the river.
Watchdog May 30, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Interesting contrast. On a local street inmy neigjborhood a cop is remodeling his home for what must be a cost of $150,000 and a few homes away, the home of an elderly widow who pays the salary of this cop is utterly falling apart. The cop could care less.
William Demarest (Editor) May 31, 2012 at 02:23 PM
FYI: The No. 1 complaint Clarkstown town and police officials say they get on virtually a daily basis is about speeding and reckless driving in neighborhoods throughout the town.
George C May 31, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Why negotiate. It's a payback for getting him re-elected.
INTHEKNOW June 01, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Your last comment... typical.. someone points out that your numbers are wrong, so you want to end the debate. Keep misrepresenting the real situation.. If you're gonna act as an authority, you have an obligation to be factually acurate... and to stop embellishing your stories.. Gee.. someone in the NYC metropolitan region makes more than someone in deer creek indiana... you're a regular Bob Woodward.
Watchdog June 01, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Cops could care less about seniors as long asthey get theirs. Shameful.
Watchdog June 01, 2012 at 03:11 AM
In fact, 86% of their work is traffic related thanks tothe fine residents of Clarkstown who commit very few crimes. If we contracted out the traffic segment to an outside agency we could reduce the size of the CPD by about 75%. .
INTHEKNOW June 01, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Brilliant.. lets "farm out the traffic work"... its not like cops ever find drugs, guns, warrants etc when doing a traffic stop. Your as big an expert as your patron Saint, M Hirsch.
Maureen June 01, 2012 at 10:37 AM
I have followed this discussion with interest. Intheknow says things are misrepresented and not factually acurate.  What is inaccurate about the data in this article or the one before about police salaries? No one is criticizing the need for a police force and no one wishes them to be paid at the same rate as a hospital aide but I have now learned in the comments to this article that the police get 30 vacation days, 24 sick days, 7 personal days, 8 bereavement days and 12 holidays.  Someone (watchdog) points out that working a 5 day week, the cops are actually "on the job" less than 1/2 of the year. I also have learned that most (86%) of their work is traffic related and for all of this we have the most expensive police force in the whole of the USA and that most of the highest town salaries are in the police department.   Those seem to be the facts.  What we as citizens do with those facts is up to us.  We are the ones paying the taxes.  Rockland County is broke (and it has an expensive Sherif's department duplicating what the police could do).  My point is that the messenger is not the issue but taxes and out-of-line compensation of public employees is an issue.   My God does anyone in the private sector get to work only 1/2 of the year for a salary in excess of $100K and 30 vacation days? The salaries and benefits are obscene.
Watchdog June 01, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Actually, ther are about 20 or so cops making more than the Secretary of Defense who does not get 81 days off each year. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/7797588/ClarkstownPayrollSummarybyYear.xlsx This list is from two years ago before the double digit increases Gromack "negotiated". The sheer number of cops on the top of this list is shocking. Salary for the United States Secretary of Defense is just under $200,000.
INTHEKNOW June 01, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Maureen, the problem is that many of the cop bashers don't want to argue with the facts, so they make up numbers. The cops work 20 days a month, the same as you if you work a monday-to-friday schedule. They do get a lot of vacation time, which I suppose they got in contracts past, but IIRC the 8 days of bereavement is completely wrong. They do get 4 day if a spouse or child dies, but I assume that anyone in the private sector who suffered such a tragedy would be given time off by their employer out of compassion.. the problem is, when you work for the public sector, your boss can't just let you not come to work.. that would be a gift of public funds..so they need language in their contract... Watchdog keeps alluding to 8 days, but no one would get that unless they lost two members of thier immeidate family and in that case, I can't see where a normal person would begrudge that. As for sick days, cops and firemen usually get more sick days than office workers, but they are out in the rain, snow, and exposed to sick people daily.. so i guess you have to make allowances. The comment that 86% of the work is traffic related is an example of the made up statistics that Watchdog and his small group like to use. CPD is a VERY busy dept that handles hundreds of calls a day, most cops don't have time for traffic duty, so they have a few who are assigned just for that.. Why not ask Watchdog for an explanation of that number.. if he can cite one source, I'll be surpised..
Watchdog June 04, 2012 at 01:08 AM
They do get a lot of vacation time but..........BUT WHAT? Who gets 30 days vacation? They get a lot of sick days but. BUT WHAT? Who gets 21 sick days? Notice you dd not dispute the fact that 86% of the coos work is traffic related...this was taken right from the police records. YOUR REBUTTAL IS LAUGHABLE. But the " joke" is really on me since I am forced to pay these outrageous salaries and benefits since we have a career politician in charge.
INTHEKNOW June 05, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Watchdog.. you need to work on your reading comprehension.. I surely did dispute your silly claim. Ill make you a deal... i will donate $1000 to the New City Library if you can find one reference police record that says 86% of the cops work is traffic related.
Sick-n-Tired June 07, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Well??????
Watchdog June 07, 2012 at 01:12 PM
It may surprise you two but I am not here to do your homework. If you disagree with any of my comments about time off, benefits or nature of work performed by the CPD then post your own information and we will compare your information with mine. Now get to work the both of you and start posting some real facts instead of attacking others. GO.,
Watchdog June 07, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Maureen, salaries and benefits are closer to $175,000, not $100,000. GROMACK just gave them additional COMPOUNDED double digit increases over the next FIVE years. Did you ever get a raise for five years?
Watchdog June 07, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I see it now, cops get 21 sick days in Clarkstown because they work "in the rain". Then how come they do not expire at the end of the year? How absurd!
Watchdog June 07, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I was wrong about vacation time for Clarkstown cops. They all do not get 30 days vacation time... Some get 35 days vacation time meaning they work 174 days a year out of 365. BUT...they missed their kids ball game so we have to pay them more than the Secretary of Defense.
AH June 07, 2012 at 03:00 PM
It is what it is. Everybody love everybody!
Sick-n-Tired June 07, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Then I will assume you have no references to back your claim. Too bad a donation to the New City Library would of been nice.
Harold1968 October 16, 2012 at 05:46 PM
The 2011 average police salary in Clarkstown is $179,689. Add 35% for benefits and the average compensation goes to $242,580. WOW. What will it take for taxpayers to become completely outraged?

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