03/16/2006

NY cop retirement payout draws mix of feelings

BY EMI ENDO
STAFF WRITER

Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc. 

The report of a record $529,377 Nassau police retirement payout from last year raised eyebrows among some taxpayers and residents yesterday, while others said cops deserved even more.

A former New York City Police Department officer, Christopher Baumann, of Lindenhurst, said his compensation paled in comparison to that for retirees from Nassau and Suffolk. Baumann, who was injured on 9/11, called the discrepancy "ridiculous."

He said, "We don't cash out sick days. We cash out nothing."

On the other hand, taxpayers such as retiree Veronica Walsh, 72, of Floral Park, said the services were worth the cost.

"I think it's wonderful because they risk their lives every day," said Walsh, as she waited at a Roosevelt Field mall bus stop. She praised the village police department that serves her neighborhood.

Eighty-one officers who retired from the Nassau police force and 12 from Suffolk left with severance packages exceeding $200,000, according to county records.

Topping the list was veteran Nassau First Deputy Commissioner Robert Bishop, who cashed out unused sick, vacation and personal days for a one-time payment of $529,377 and, when his salary was added in, brought home $730,422.

"I don't know all the details, but it sounds like it might be a lot of money for the taxpayers," Hofstra graduate student Dan Werner, 26, said yesterday.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi called the payouts "a gross abuse of taxpayer funds."

Suozzi, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said state laws that cover municipal unions needed to be overhauled.

"I've been fighting against these kinds of raids on the public treasury since my first day in office and we have won historic concessions," Suozzi said in a written statement. "But the abuses continue."

Phoebe Goodman, a consultant to the Nassau Citizens Budget Committee, said from the county's position, "I fully understand that bargaining with the unions is a very difficult thing to do at times.

"But it just seems to me that there ought to be some ... understanding for the taxpayers when this much money is involved."

But Ezekiel Adeyemi, 30, a tutor who lives in Brooklyn, said the payouts were a legitimate government policy.

"I believe police deserve more payment," Adeyemi said. "They are sacrificing their lives to take care of us."

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