Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said this week that he expects an upcoming financial audit, due within the next week or two, will conclude that he made a mistake when permitting Village Police Chief Raymond Dean to buy back 25 unused vacation days 18 months ago due to a clause in his new contract that caps the figure.
As a result, the mayor said Chief Dean most likely will be ordered to return $6,449.60 to the village—though Mr. Teller noted that the chief of police and village could come to an agreement in which he gives up some of his other unused vacation days in lieu of returning money to the village.
“Based on my labor attorney’s opinion, I have to take the days from him,” Mr. Teller said, while also adding that state auditors, who last week gave village finances a clean bill of health, did not flag the overpayment when reviewing village books. “That’s it. This is a mistake on my part—it dawned on me now but, at the time, it didn’t.”
He explained that under the terms of Chief Dean’s previous labor contract, which was negotiated in 2004, he was entitled to buy back from the village up to 25 unused vacation days each year and, in June 2011, was paid approximately $15,000 for the time. But in November of that year, Chief Dean received a new five-and-a-half-year contract, retroactive to January 1, 2009, stating that, among other things, he can buy back only up to 15 unused vacation days a year.
Mr. Teller, who signed off on the payment as the village’s chief financial officer, said Chief Dean was entitled to buy back only 15 days total that year. The mayor said the mistake was made because Chief Dean collected his time in June 2011, five months before receiving a new contract that reduced the figure from 25 to 15 days. Chief Dean is making $161,796 for 2012-13 fiscal year, according to his new contract.
“We were negotiating a new contract,” Mr. Teller said about the error. “This is just an after-effect of the new contract, and I believe that somebody saw it and turned it in, reminding everybody that he was overpaid.”
Village Board members, without the support of Mr. Teller, ordered their auditing firm, Satty, Levine & Ciacco in Jericho, to conduct a financial audit—for an additional cost of $7,250—after uncovering a separate payroll error committed by Village Clerk/Treasurer Rebecca Molinaro for the 2011-12 fiscal year resulting in all village employees being overpaid $22,000 total. As part of their request, village trustees, led by Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker, asked that auditors also investigate if Chief Dean was overpaid beyond the terms of his contract.
In a letter faxed to the state comptroller’s office on November 19, 2012, Scott Augustine, an outside attorney hired by the board to investigate the payroll error, also asked that state auditors review “payments to a current employee (Raymond E. Dean) either in excess of his contract or not in compliance with his contract.” State auditors, however, did not flag the mistake.
Mr. Teller said that Chief Dean has been told about the error but has not yet received official notification from the village. Once the audit is complete, Mr. Teller said he will sit down with Chief Dean and review all options under which he can pay back the village.
“I haven’t been officially been told anything,” Chief Dean said on Wednesday. “I don’t have a comment at this time.”
Mr. Tucker, when reached this week, again blasted the mayor for discussing what he describes as a personnel issue with the media. Mr. Tucker also declined to explain how he and other board members learned about the mistake made by the mayor regarding Chief Dean’s vacation days.