The results of the Town Board’s investigation of Plattekill Police Chief Joseph Ryan’s accident in New Jersey with his patrol car on personal business were not released as expected at the Oct. 5 board meeting.
Supervisor Jennifer Salemo told the Southern Ulster Times last week that she expected the results of the accident probe to be released to the public at the meeting.
But after a 75-minute executive session, the meeting was immediately adjourned with no mention of the expected release of the report about Ryan’s accident.
In an interview following the meeting, Salemo said no action was taken in the executive session.
“It (the report) is not completed yet,” Salemo said.
She said the board was working on making policy changes about travel in town vehicles before releasing the results of the probe.
Ryan crashed his 2021 Ford Explorer police car into a light pole trying to avoid another vehicle that had merged into his lane during a trip on Sept. 1 to visit relatives in Toms River, N.J.
“Ryan was not at fault for the accident,” Salemo said. “What he was at fault for was that he broke the policy in our employee handbook. The investigation has not been completed yet.”
Salemo declined to comment when asked if the town has considered suspending Ryan pending the results of the investigation.
“He’s still the chief,” she said. “I don’t even like calling it an investigation.”
In 2016, Ryan was put on administrative leave for seven months by the town after being charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief by Town of Newburgh police after they responded to a domestic dispute at his Newburgh home.
Following the seven-month town probe, Ryan was reinstated to his position on the board. He has been a member of the department since 1996 and chief since 2007.
The cost of the repairs to Ryan’s car were estimated to be $12,500.26, according to the insurance claim from Statewide Claim Services, Inc.
Ryan, who did not attend the Oct. 5 meeting, told the Southern Ulster Times on Sept. 21 that he thought the damage was “cosmetic” before the insurance claim was made public.
The town has already been cut a check for $11,500.26 by the insurance company, the estimated total of the repairs minus a $1,000 deductible.
In other news, the tentative town budget for 2023 was released. The total budget of $6,309,140 was $45,839 less than the 2022 spending plan of $6,354,979.
However, the 2023 tax levy of $4,330,132 features an increase of 3.19 percent over last year’s tax levy of $4,196,184.
Former Supervisor Joseph Croce, who chose not to run for re-election in 2023, was able to keep the amount to be raised by taxes under the 2.0 percent tax cap every year since it was instituted in 2012.
Salemo, however, pledged to keep the town under the state-mandated tax cap once again in 2023.
“A tentative budget is exactly that – it is tentative,” Salemo said. “The numbers are going to change, most definitely. There’s no way for me to comment on any accuracy of the budget at this moment until the preliminary budget comes out. It will go under the tax cap, though.”
Councilman Wilfrido Castillo Jr. was hopeful that the board would be able to make enough cuts to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes under the 2.0 cap.
“We’re going to try like hell,” Castillo said. “I don’t see it going to 3.0 percent. We try to keep it down all the time because we’re all taxpayers.”
Castillo said there are many items in the budget that are difficult to control.
“There’s health insurance, gas and when you’re talking about oil you’re talking about blacktop,” he said. “You can’t cover as much area because the blacktop went up, too. The police are on patrol and paying for gas. We’re all feeling it. It’s really terrible and we are into a national recession.”
The biggest increase in the tentative budget is under the general fund where the tax levy is up 8.9 percent. The proposed spending in the general fund for 2023 is $1,291,365, up $105,684 over 2022.
In addition to a 16 percent increase in employee benefits, which includes an increase of $40,500 for health insurance over 2022, the safety inspection budget line is up $89,293 (12 percent).
“Code enforcement is also included in that public safety total and they are requested a new car,” Salemo said.
The highway department budget of $1,358,517 is down less than 1.0 percent.
The public hearing on the preliminary budget will be held on Nov. 2.
Leroy Hogan Jr. was appointed to the town’s veterans’ committee.
The town is interviewing candidates to replace Fire and Code Enforcement Officer Ed Diller, who resigned four weeks ago, Salemo said.
Salemo said the board planned to interview Greg Hermance for the vacancy.
“His resume looks great,” Salemo said. “We’re looking forward to meeting with him.”