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POLICE CHIEF MICHAEL SULLIVAN RALLY CLOSES DOWN STREET; SUPERVISOR SAYS HE RECEIVED ANONYMOUS DEATH THREAT

PHOTOS BY DORICE ARDEN

STORY BY CAROL MCILMURRAY

 

Six days after Police Chief Michael Sullivan was suspended from office, a “We Support Michael Sullivan” rally drew well over 500 law enforcement professionals, town employees, and residents to show their unwavering support outside the Town Hall.  A portion of about 45 protesters including Michael Sullivan found their way up to the third floor Town Board workshop to confront the controversial decision.

THE RALLY

On-duty cops directed traffic as they closed down Maple Ave. directly in front of Clarkstown Town hall for the protest to disciplinary action being taken against the police chief. Groups of friends, families, and colleagues congregated and chatted en masse as they waited for a rally led by Police Benevolent Association (PBA). The PBA endorsed the police chief and officer they have worked with over the past thirty years without access to the disciplinary charges handed down from the Town Hall.

“I don’t need to see the charges,” said Marge Hook, a Clarkstown resident and protester present at the rally. Hook continued, “Chief Sullivan has been an outstanding and upstanding police officer for 33 years, and now all of sudden after six months with George Hoehmann as Supervisor the Town Board decides to suspend him. Something doesn’t add up.”

Senator David Carlucci (D) and County Legislator Doug Jobson (R) both joined the cause to support Chief Sullivan by wearing dark navy t-shirts proclaiming “We support Chief Sullivan”.  The bipartisan politicians were joined by over a 100 other rally-goers clad in the same declarative shirt.

Top level police officials Sheriff Louis Falco, and police chiefs McNulty (Orangetown), Clarke Osborn (Suffern), Brent Newbury ( S. Nyack), Paul Modica (Spring Valley) other high level PBA members were dressed professionally for the gathering as they stood outside the doors of town hall.

Political figures of Clarkstown’s past such as former Supervisor Alex Gromack, Republican Chair Vincent Reda,  and County Judge Rolf Thorsen all joined the big blue line around Town Hall.

Predecessor Clarkstown Police Chiefs Kilduff and Noonan spoke in support of Chief Sullivan at a makeshift podium placed in front of Town Hall and next to a landscape redesign project that happened to keep the crowd off the Town property with yellow caution tape.

CHIEF SULLIVAN’S TELL HIS SIDE OF THE STORY AT RALLY

Chief Sullivan stepped up and spoke at the podium and finally revealed his side of the story.

Sullivan told the crowd the outpouring of support “meant the world to him” and inspired him to ” keep fighting, and keep trying to exonerate myself, and try to get back on the job as soon as possible.”

Sullivan told the crowd when he met with Supervisor and other officials he was handed two pieces of paper with one choice to make: One piece of paper had a list of charges with alleged misconduct; the second had a lucrative buyout deal.

“They said they wanted to let me leave with my dignity intact,” Sullivan asserted. “And I agree with them. So I left the offer on the table and picked up the charges and I will leave with my dignity intact, and my honor.”

Sullivan was suspended last week by the Town Board for yet to be disclosed reasons. The veteran cop earns $272,000 a year, which the taxpayers will continue to pay until the disciplinary proceedings are held, which can take months or even possible years, depending on if and how the matter enters litigation.

Supervisor George Hoehmann believes this issue will be resolved in a “fairly quick manner.”

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY; CHIEF OF STAFF DESCRIBES HOEHMANN  DEATH THREAT

According to Chief of Staff, Vincent Balascio, Supervisor Hoehmann received an anonymous death threat via a text message on his cellphone just six hours after the suspension was made official.  Balascio said at 12:45 a.m. on Thursday, Hoehmann received a text stating, “I hope a cop shoots you, you (expletive) and stands over your corpse.”

Balascio says the threat was reported to state police instead of local police due to the timing of police chief suspension and the nature of the threat.

 

THE PROTEST COMES INSIDE

A workshop on one topic, police matters, was set for 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of Clarkstown Hall.

At the beginning of the meeting, Supervisor Hoehmann addressed the then small crowd.

“I would like to comment on some of the allegations that have taken place but I won’t. There is a process that will play out and suffice to say that the rules of the department apply to everybody. I … know that there is concern that folks might be voicing about the reform efforts that are now underway. Those reform efforts are not only affecting the police but all departments,” Hoehmann stated. He concluded, “I want people to rest assured that I will do the right thing as I promised the taxpayers and we will move forward.”

While the front doors of Town Hall next to the rally were locked by staff, a select group were able to confront the board.  A line of high ranking sheriffs, Village police chiefs, ardent rally goers, media, and Chief Sullivan himself found their way up to the small workshop piece by piece.

A wall of police officials sat in the front row eventually to be joined on the other side of the aisle by Chief Sullivan. The tension in the already chilly room was palpable as Chief Sullivan and the Town Board listened to acting Chief Robert Mahon and administrative Captain Anthony Ovchinnikoff delivery the monthly police report.

When the board tried to close for executive session, two members of the public questioned the police commission and the money spent on the Bonadio Report. The Bonadio group is an upstate accounting firm that was hired for approximately $100,000 to review Clarkstown Police $50 million dollar budget. Hoehmann and Sullivan had a public disagreement over the hiring of the firm to inspect town police finances.

Hoehmann concluded the meeting stating that the comments were not germane to the monthly police report, the only allowed topic due to the lack of record and standard procedure at the workshop.

A group of people in the back row yelled “coward” repeatedly. One woman shouted, “You are going down Hoehmann,” as board members exited the room in a possible effort to avoid further confrontation.

A Town Hall meeting is scheduled for August 9th and public comment is welcome at that upcoming meeting.

 

 

 

 

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