The Bells Of “Extortion” and “Blackmail” Ring Their Toll In Spite of Thee Hezitorial
The Preamble: The political landscape in Yonkers has for years been strewn with one opportunist after another. The historical perspective reveals opportunists who created a platform of support among associates in support of those vying for political office. Their intention was to obtain financial gain under false pretense, that is, claiming to serve the public good, when in reality it was to serve themselves. In time, even those without sufficient support to win election to office, realized that an option similar in capacity, was to some extent plausible in their ability to obtain that which was not earned. It was not “right” and yet was often hidden from those who paid little attention to those who held offices of governance.
Initially, elected office seemed be, the be all and end all. It also required the heavy lifting of engaging in service to the public interest. Cognizant residents recognized over time that what was respected, and adhered to by aspirants seeking public office was morphing into self-serving interests and dismissive of the public interest. No admittance of failure was required. Public service was littered with benefits bequeathed upon their elected elite out of initial respect and adulation. In time these “benefits” were codified as “given” and complementary to a growing number of office holders. Time would transform the costs and concerns over a growing list of largesse for elected office holders with a complacent electorate weary of maintaining their contempt.
Over time, some, serving in ancillary roles to those elected, envied the clout and capacity they recognized was wielded by those elected by and over the constituents they claimed to “serve”. Juxtaposed to those holding elected office, those in ancillary roles representing “other” interests, devised passive aggressive and effective conduct and capacity to wield power and influence by engaging in “extortion” and “blackmail” of those “above their station”.
Conceptualizing the introduction above is not a stretch by any means. especially for those who recognize that reported.
The Proof: The Yonkers Police Benevolent (PBA) Association, its PBA President Det. Keith Olson, and then Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett, since 2010, mutually agreed to cede over-time management authority from the Yonkers Police Commissioner to the PBA President. It was that very acquiescence by Hartnett to Olson that has revealed itself to be the basis for an excessive financial over-time burden that has plagued the Yonkers Police Department and the City of Yonkers capacity to balance its yearly budget ever since.
Last year, during an introspection and review of Mayor Mike Spano’s Proposed FY 2019-2020 Yonkers City Budget, Police Commissioner Charles Gardner informed that cost overruns and excessive pension padding abuse standards permitted before he took the helm on January 1, 2012 were going to be reduced to a maximum of 40-hours overtime every two weeks. Commissioner Gardner correctly recognized that the issue of overtime was a managerial concern. Yet Gardner fought an uphill battle that may at last mitigate the excessive abuse and pension padding schemes that had grown to 60-hours of overtime every two weeks despite his knowing it was deleterious to managerial expertise and morale. Gardner was outmaneuvered by Olson who would storm out of the PBA Office situated on the ground floor of the Cacace Justice Center, and then crossed the walkway bridge to Yonkers City Hall. He was often seen scowling in anticipation of exacting what he wanted from Mayor Mike Spano, who reluctantly capitulated to the threats of “extortion” and “blackmail”. Olson would exact a cost. He instructed YPD Officers not to give tickets to those drivers who did not abide by the law, such as traffic infractions, thereby slowing traffic needlessly and costing the city thousands in lost revenue to force Mayor Spano to his knees. Olson also threatened to withhold PBA endorsement of Mayor Spano’s re-election effort if he did not endorse returning the 60-hours of overtime per month. Pouting with disdain, Olson brought the issue to the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which was created by the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act of 1967, commonly referred to as the Taylor Law. PERB was intended to promote the harmonious and cooperative relationships between public employers and their represented employees by enforcing the State’s collective bargaining laws. PERB concurred with the PBA assertion that the 60-hours of overtime should be re-instated. However the reader must appreciate that PERB can, does, and may espouse their perspective and opinion, but that it need not be accepted or engaged.
When the 60-hours every two weeks overtime allowance was reduced to 40-hours maximum every two weeks above the weekly 35-hours, many senior Police Officers, mostly PBA Board of Trustees members retired in order to maintain their pension padded abuse pay. In other words their continued overtime work would have reduced their pension padding abuse effort so they chose to retire.
The savings for having those Police Officers retire was an impetus for future Police Officers to be hired at a starting point of $78,000 per annum. Yonkers Police Officers are assigned a 35-hours work week. In other words a 140-hours per month workload. Add an additional 120-hours per month in overtime, tabulated as time-and-a-half, and the sum total of 140-hours plus the additional 120-hours overtime is equal to 260-hours per month or 66-hours a week, that is 13.2 hours every day. It is that work cycle that places Police Officers in an unhealthy physical and mental situation, creates a highly strung, sleep deprived mental capacity, and robs them of any home life. And that is why Yonkersites often speak in hushed tones when learning of Police Officers sleeping in their cars, even sleeping while standing while engaged in traffic duty assignments, and getting their sugar and coffee highs at the Dunkin Donuts.
Westchester County Police have resolved this issue. It is not in the hands of any human interference and a system that Commissioner Gardner is intentioned to adopt. It is computer generated. When overtime is recognized to be necessary the computer will call the officer next eligible to work overtime. The computer system informs the Police Officer that they have a small window of opportunity to respond to their being able to accept the overtime assignment. If they do not return the call within 3 hours, their name drops to the bottom of the list and the process continues until the number of OT assignments are allocated. No one can insinuate their overriding the system by doing any officer a favor for whatever reason. It is automated and unadulterated by human intervention. It permits equal access to every Police Officer and avoids the abusive pension padding accumulation of OT to benefits the PBA Board of Trustees members who were most often the predominant recipients of OT.
When the Mayor’s FY 2018-2019 Budget was approved the 60-hours every two-weeks OT allocation was reduced to 40-hours every two-week’s in OT for the “chosen” mostly PBA Board of Trustees members were earning in excess of $150,000 per annum, $200,000 per annum, some as high as $300,00 per annum salary. Half of the sums noted would be their padded pension. So when 60-hours every two weeks was reduced to 40-hours every two weeks, many Police Officers chose to retire.
With no OT available specifically designated for the chosen few, expect many to retire. With less PBA Board of Directors employed and the beneficiaries of OT, guided as they were for almost a decade by PBA Pres. Det Olson, Olson’s capacity to passive / aggressive “extortion” and/or “blackmail” of Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano will cease.
The pension padding abuse that was engaged by Olson and tolerated by Mayor Spano cost the taxpayer plenty because of the specific bloated OT abuse practice.
One should not forget that for the last 20 years, perhaps even as far back as 30 years the Yonkers Police Department has maintained a consistent staff of 485 Police Officers. By managing overtime using the Westchester County Police computer system Commissioner Gardner will be able to increase the Yonker Police Department by 150 to 200 Police Officers without the exorbitant and outrageous sums accrued by insiders who commanded so much OT that fell on the back of the taxpayer. From FY2020-2021 the Yonkers taxpayer will be relieved of the “extortion” / “blackmail” and those of the officers who were permitted to and facilitated to engage in pension padding.
This assault on the Yonkers taxpayer speaks to the OT pension padding abuse that was instituted by maligning a system was sustained without the taxpayer fully understanding why the City of Yonkers was consistently in need of financial support.
The Yonkers Tribune has learned from people with knowledge who inform us that Mayor Mike Spano was rightfully insulted by Olson’s threat to deny Mayor Spano the PBA endorsement this election cycle.
The Takeaway: It is high time Yonkers City Hall learn to govern with transparency. If they cannot do so, they should step down from seeking another term. For Mayor Mike Spano to maintain his silence regarding Olson’s threat reveals that Olson must be dismissed, that he has been arrogantly biased and irresponsible in carrying out his responsibilities to the entire membership, and has been an insult to the elected Mayor of Yonkers, and financially irresponsible to the entire PBA membership on issues other than those mentioned herein.
Likewise, Yonkers City Hall must learn to celebrate that which is worthy of celebration. When the City of Yonkers has something worthy to celebrate why share it only among the select few? Where is the logic in that? Above all it is arrogant and dismissive and must end.
It is high time Yonkers City Hall contend with informing the Public the issues in all their complexity. Serving the Public interest trumps serving a renegade like Olson. The benefits he has accrued are outrageous and have cost the taxpayer plenty. When will Olson be dismissed?