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Dec 9, 2009 3:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach has nearly burned through its budget for labor attorney fees

Dec 9, 2009 3:20 PM

With slightly less than six months to go in its fiscal year, Westhampton Beach Village is running out of money set aside to pay its labor attorney fees, due to ongoing contract negotiations.

The village was billed $25,323.24 from June 1 through September 30 for consulting with the village’s labor attorney, Richard Zuckerman of Lamb & Barnosky of Melville. The village budgeted $25,000 for labor attorney fees for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which ends May 31. Mr. Zuckerman is paid $250 an hour.

The Village Board will have to transfer money from another line in this year’s $8.93 million budget to the labor attorney fee line, according to Kathy McGinnis, the village clerk and treasurer. It is not clear when that will happen or from which line the board will transfer the money.

The majority of labor attorney fees, or $24,085, stem from ongoing contract negotiations with the Westhampton Beach Police Benevolent Association, Department of Public Works, and Village Police Chief Ray Dean, including costs associated with the notice of claim he filed against the village in July. Members of both the PBA and DPW have been working without a contract since the end of May, while Chief Dean has been working without a contract since the end of last year.

It is common for the village to go over its budget when it is negotiating with its employees, Ms. McGinnis said. “That does happen when your negotiating contracts,” she said.

Still, the village is on track to having the most expensive year in terms of labor attorney fees since 2006. Westhampton Beach has budgeted $25,000 for labor attorney costs for each of the past few years, according to Ms. McGinnis. Last fiscal year, the village spent slightly more than budgeted, some $27,000. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, officials spent less than half of the budget, about $11,000.

The 2006-07 fiscal year was slightly more expensive even though it did not cover the entire fiscal year. Mr. Zuckerman was retained in September 2006, and the village spent approximately $27,700 between then and end of the fiscal year in May 2007. Most of those costs went to discussing issues in the Westhampton Beach Police Department. The village was billed about $10,000 for discussing Chief Dean’s contract that year, and about $9,450 in discussing other matters in the police department.

Chief Dean’s contract expired December 31, 2008. However, costs were accrued earlier because some village trustees asked for his advice, Mr. Zuckerman said.

“The trustees had a lot of questions about different personnel and unions issues and wanted my opinion with regard to the matters and they received it,” he said.

In fact, the Westhampton Beach Police Department has been the biggest labor expense to the village each year, according to an analysis of its bills. Most of those costs come from contract negotiations and other general inquiries like grievances, raises and assignments.

Ms. McGinnis pointed out that the police department is the village’s largest expense. It accounts for about 28 percent, or $2.5 million, of the village’s $8.93 million budget for 2009-10. That figure does not include employee benefits like health insurance, Ms. McGinnis said.

So far this fiscal year, the village has been billed nearly $4,000 while negotiating Chief Dean’s new contract, and $9,846 for when he filed a notice of claim against Westhampton Beach. He filed the claim after Village Board members voted in an illegal executive session in May to take back 421 hours of the nearly 584 hours of compensatory time that Chief Dean had accrued as of September 2008. Board members made the move because Chief Dean’s expired contract states that he cannot earn more than 200 hours of compensatory time. That time is awarded in lieu of overtime pay whenever he works holidays or more than 40 hours per week.

The motion to take away his compensatory time was rescinded in June, the Village Board approved a resolution declaring that Chief Dean’s contract was never “binding and enforceable.” But a clause in his expired contract, called the Triborough Amendment, states that the terms of Chief Dean’s old contract will be applied until a new one is inked. In 2008, he earned $149,624 in salary, and that figure does not include some $55,000 in benefits.

Between June 2008 and May 2009, the village spent about $15,400 negotiating Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean’s contract. That means the village has spent more than $29,000 over 18 months renegotiating his contract.

Chief Dean said he is paying for his attorney, Michael Axelrod of Certilman, Balin, Adler and Hyman, LLP in East Meadow, out of his own pocket, but declined to say how much he has spent so far.

It is not clear when Westhampton Beach and Chief Dean will reach an agreement. Both sides said that it has been a while since they discussed his contract.

Since June, the village has spent about $3,380 negotiating the PBA’s contract, and nearly $7,000 negotiating the DPW contract. Both contracts began on June 1, 2005, and expired on May 31, but negotiations started very early this year, Ms. McGinnis said. Last fiscal year, the village spent just over $8,000 on negotiations—about $7,500 with the PBA and $625 with the DPW.

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$204,624.00 in Salary and benefits for a Police Chief in a village the size of Westhampton Beach? That is totally outrageous and a blatant ripoff of the village taxpayers. Even the $110,000 salaries of the bad cops is ridiculous, that's what the Chief should be getting paid.
By sayitaintsojoe (100), Westhampton on Dec 9, 09 3:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
If I remember correctly from when this was made a big deal of last Spring, sayitaintsojoe, it's ain't so. That $204,624.00 was disproven, and when a comparison with other East End Police Chiefs was made, $175k-$200k was found to be the norm.

And ANY sort of salary for bad cops is worse than ridiculous!

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 9, 09 5:42 PM
What happens here is the bottom of the ladder drives up the higher rungs -
The continual whip-sawing of arbitration awards on Long Island drives up the cost for your police officer; this in turn drives up the cost for the superior titles (Detective,Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, etc). Obviously the Chief has to be at the top rung.
As long as the Taylor remains unchanged the unions and their consultants know they can always go to arbitration where almost always the arbitrator renders a favorable ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Dec 9, 09 4:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
I find it funny that you have a very short memory because I don't remember you complaining when you made this police salary. What do you think we are stupid, everybody knows who you are NORTH OF HIGHWAY: former badge #...., what you should be called is a fake, phony and you were a lazy cop when you served the Town of Southampton. From what I remember with your people skills, the only thing you can do to supplement your pension is to shovel dog crap. Happy Holidays!!
By rocky (79), shampton on Dec 10, 09 3:17 PM
whoops - Taylor Law - I left out the word "Law"
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Dec 9, 09 4:19 PM
It is more than 100 cops a year that NYS loses. A more accurate picture of just how bad it is should be how many NYPD cops take the test for those other police departments.

Binding Arbitration is a farce perpetrated on the public. NYC cops get skunked all the time because the politicians want it that way. In the other better paid police departments the arbitarators award generous raises because the political establishment wants it that way and then blames in on the arbitrators.
By THE EQUALIZER (62), JERICHO on Dec 9, 09 10:47 PM
$190,423

from:

http://www.seethroughny.net/Payrolls/tabid/55/Default.aspx

Comparing one overpaid chief of police does not mean they aren't all overpaid. We do not live in a high crime area, we have a small jurisdiction, with only a handful of officers.

The fish head stinks along with the rest of the fish. to paraphrase another post.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Dec 10, 09 8:04 AM
Just more sunlight

Agency Last, First Pay Basis Rate YTDPay
Westhampton Beach Barosa, Kathleen A $75,365
Westhampton Beach Benkov, Charles R $75,365
Westhampton Beach Betts, Gair G $11,817
Westhampton Beach Bigora, Kenneth J $86,305
Westhampton Beach Bruetsch, Michael J $119,720
Westhampton Beach Cunneen, Stephen M $128,722
Westhampton Beach De Martino, Marc W $21,206
Westhampton Beach De Rubeis, Andrew J $42,419
Westhampton ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Dec 10, 09 10:00 AM
I CANT WAIT: Till March when someone with the guts will start passing around the petition to abolish the Westhampton Beach Police Force and finally do away with this farce of a self-serving police force. I'm sure the chief is a great guy, as all of the other chiefs, but that does not justify their pay on the backs of the taxpayers that they serve.
By TIRED (13), whb on Dec 13, 09 12:02 PM
Would Westhampton Beach even recognize the Initiative & Referendum mechanism?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 13, 09 11:22 PM
What is the alternative and what is it's cost?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Dec 19, 09 11:22 AM
Take your Meds Rocky
I've never been a cop - just a guy who was in the Labor Relations business for 30 years;
Gee, I wish I had one of those half pay pensions
hope you feel better
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Dec 14, 09 12:15 PM
Glad you cleared that up! Pay no attention to "Rocky." Just look at her other comments.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 14, 09 2:51 PM
When did you take the test?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Dec 19, 09 11:10 AM
Hey! Ive worked for both public employee unions and government - both sides of the fence. The "savvy" Nassau County attorney and I spent many a long day in bargaining sessions - I think I have a good handle on the process and how it got to where it is - actually it doesn't take much to figure it out!!!
Even Rock can should she choose to.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Dec 14, 09 5:05 PM
Has anyone asked if the Village's labor counsel has "done his part" and reduced his fees due the "economic crisis" we keep hearing about? It doesn't sound like it.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Dec 19, 09 11:13 AM
Interesting, no one ever comments on the cost of labor counsel, just the cost of labor, specifically police labor.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Dec 20, 09 5:37 PM