The Plattekill Town Board’s investigation of Police Chief Joseph Ryan’s accident in his patrol car in New Jersey is nearing completion and the board may announce the results of the probe at its October 5 meeting, Supervisor Jennifer Salemo told the Southern Ulster Times.
“We’re aiming for the next board meeting,” Salemo said when asked when the results of the investigation would be made public.
Salemo said the board has reviewed the September 1 accident report by the Toms River (N.J.) Police Department. Ryan had the accident in Toms River while he was visiting relatives on a personal matter, more than 130 miles away from the Plattekill Police Department.
Salemo released the accident investigation report and the insurance claim to the Southern Ulster Times.
The police report said that Ryan swerved in his 2021 Ford Explorer to avoid a small white sedan that suddenly merged into his lane from the left lane. When he swerved, Ryan’s town police vehicle struck the curb with his front passenger side and then hit a light pole.
No injuries were reported and no tickets were issued, according to the police report.
Toms River Police reported that the disabled vehicle was towed by Freedom Towing.
While the police report verified the account of the accident that Ryan reported to the Southern Ulster Times in an interview during the board’s Sept. 21 meeting, his claim that the damage to the vehicle was “cosmetic” is contrary to the findings in the insurance claim.
According to the claim from Statewide Claim Services, Inc. of West Babylon, N.Y., the cost of the repairs to the vehicle totaled $12,500.26.
There was damage to the vehicle’s front bumper, grille, two front headlights, radiator support, the air conditioner and heater, the hood and right fender, according to the insurance claim.
The work was scheduled to be done at Smitty’s Auto Body Shop in New Paltz.
The Town of Plattekill was already cut a check of $11,500.26, which was the cost of the repairs less the town’s $1,000 deductible, according to the insurance report.
“According to the damages listed from the insurance company, it is not only cosmetic damage,” Salemo said.
Salemo said the town board probe included reviewing E-Z Pass records to determine if Ryan had made other trips outside of town on personal business similar to his New Jersey trip.
Although the town currently doesn’t require Ryan or other police officers to keep a log of their travels, Salemo said that may change.
“Not currently, but that is (being) considered to be changed in the near future,” she said.
Salemo said the board had interviewed Ryan about the accident.
This isn’t the first time Ryan has been investigated by Plattekill officials. In 2016, he was arrested by the Town of Newburgh police after they responded to a domestic dispute at his Newburgh home.
After being charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief, Ryan was placed on administrative leave with pay by the Town Board. Former Town Supervisor Joseph Croce ordered Ryan to turn in his badge and gun while the board conducted an investigation.
After being on administrative leave for seven months, Ryan was reinstated to his position by the board. Ryan has been a member of the department since 1996 and chief since 2007.
Salemo said she couldn’t respond when asked if the town had considered suspending Ryan during the investigation of the New Jersey accident.
“At this time, I’m not at liberty to discuss that because it was part of our conversation during the executive session,” she said.
Ryan said Sunday night that he was unaware that the results of the Plattekill Town Board’s probe regarding his car accident in New Jersey on personal business might be released at the Oct. 5 board meeting. He said he described the events surrounding his Sept. 1 car accident in Toms River, N.J. to board members who are conducting the investigation.
“I believe they’ll do a fair investigation,” Ryan said.
He said that trips outside of the Town of Plattekill are permitted, according to his contract with the town.
“There’s no parameters saying how far I can drive my car,” Ryan said. “I’ve driven my car all over the place. I respond to emergencies on numerous times as most police chiefs do. If they want to give me some parameters, I’m open to it. If they want to limit how far I can drive the car to, that’s fine.”
Ryan said he was surprised to learn that the damages to his vehicle totaled $12,500.26, according to the insurance claim. He described them as “cosmetic” when asked about them by the Southern Ulster Times during the Sept. 21 meeting.
“For a $40,000 car, yeah I was actually surprised,” he said.