Suffolk County's largest and most powerful police union pays its top brass almost double what its Nassau counterpart pays, according to the latest documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association, which now represents about 1,546 members, paid 20 union board members and trustees $491,166 in total compensation in 2012, the documents show.
The 1,600-member Nassau County Patrolmen's Benevolent Association reported that total compensation for its 18-member executive board of officers and trustees was $263,733.
In both counties, this compensation is paid for by dues from union members. Compensation figures for 2013 and 2014 were not available from the IRS or the unions.
"I believe that what we receive is appropriate and commensurate to the work that's being done," Suffolk PBA president Noel DiGerolamo said. "It's a board effort that gets everything done. Without the board we would not have been able to achieve the last contract that we did, which the county BRO [Budget Review Office] said was valued at $270 million. Between that and a 10-year health care agreement worth over $3 billion, I would say that they are getting their money's worth out of the efforts we are putting in."
That contract, which promises existing officers $203 million in pay raises through 2018, was secured without arbitration -- a first in more than two decades, DiGerolamo said.
Ten of the 20 Suffolk PBA members listed as trustees reported doing an average of one hour a week of union work. The highest-paid of those, trustee Patrick Maloney, received $25,725 plus $500 in other compensation from the organization -- about $500 a week.
DiGerolamo said all the current 17 board members work more than what the filings indicate. In 2012, there were 20 until three retirements that year returned the board to 17 members.
The Nassau PBA reported its trustees and board members averaged either 40 hours a week or 12 hours a week doing union work. The highest-paid trustee reported working 12 hours and was paid $11,183, or about $18 an hour or $216 a week.
Police union leaders represent officers during contract negotiations or when filing grievances, as well as for line of duty injuries and even when they are not in uniform, said DiGerolamo and Nassau PBA president James Carver.
Some Suffolk PBA members have complained about the board's method of compensation.
The Suffolk County district attorney's office found in 2012 that the PBA did not do anything criminally wrong after it received "several complaints and inquiries on the conduct" of how its board members compensated themselves as officers and trustees of the union, according to a letter signed by Christopher McPartland, the district attorney's division chief of investigations.
"Some people were making false allegations," DiGerolamo said, "and somebody made a complaint and it was investigated and found to be untrue."
DiGerolamo said he has made changes to the way the board does business and it would be reflected in the 2013 filings.
DiGerolamo received $42,882 in 2012 for serving as president for the remainder of the year after former president Jeff Frayler retired in April. Frayler, who was a board member for 25 years, was paid $25,876 in 2012. In 2011, Frayler received $75,429 plus $14,000 in other compensation, according to the filings.
DiGerolamo is one of five union officers who are paid a salary for doing union work as well as their full-time salary from the county, an arrangement termed a full-release officer. DiGerolamo's salary from the police department was $164,134 in base pay and overtime in 2012.
Carver received $30,800 for union work and $211,813.84 in base pay and overtime from Nassau County in 2012.
"Even if they have an issue at home or [need] advice, we're there," Carver said. "We're there no matter what. It's 24/7 . . . our job is to defend our guys. We have a legal obligation to do so."
Stipends run wide gamut
Ron DeLord, a police union expert, lecturer and former executive director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said it's not unusual for police unions to pay stipends to top executive officers on their board. DeLord said nationwide stipends to top officers can run a wide gamut.
"It's just an issue of are the members willing to pay that [extra compensation]," DeLord said. "If they are not, then they could just change the rules and run for office."
Union officers realize "it's a huge responsibility" to ensure that the dues that fund their salaries are well spent, Carver said.
DiGerolamo said the board protects those who protect the public. "It's a very important role," he said, "in order to ensure that not only are they compensated fairly and that they receive the security they need for their future and they don't have to worry about getting medical care when they need it. It's also to educate the public on the work they do."