Disciplinary charges against an Amityville Village police officer who volunteered with the village fire department while on duty as a police officer were resolved Tuesday as part of an agreement with the officer and the police union, according to a joint statement.
Village trustees approved the agreement by a 4-1 vote after a meeting that was closed to the public and said later that state personnel law kept them from commenting on its details. Officer Eric Onderdonk, who was named in the statement, also said he could not comment.
Onderdonk violated New York State law but not village policy when he performed fire department service while on police duty, earning credits in the village's pension-like program for firefighters at the same time he was drawing a salary and benefits as an officer, according to the statement.
"While Officer Onderdonk believed at the time that these were acceptable practices," he "no longer contests" that they are prohibited under state law, the statement reads. He and the village have resolved their differences and are "putting the matter behind them," it concludes. Onderdonk, a 16-year department veteran, is paid $173,889 a year.
Trustee Dennis Siry, who cast the dissenting vote Tuesday Tuesday, said Onderdonk had been the victim of a broader struggle between the village board majority and the PBA related to police pay.
"The issue shouldn't have gotten to this point," Siry said in a phone interview. "It was a vengeful thing."
While Siry said that time on the clock as a village employee "probably" should not count toward the pension-like Length of Service Awards Program for firefighters, commonly referred to by the acronym LOSAP, he said that what Onderdonk had done was common practice for village employees for years.
Volunteer firefighters who also "serve as paid employees within a political subdivision of the state" cannot earn LOSAP credit for activities performed during "regularly assigned work periods," according to New York State municipal law.
However, some firefighters could earn LOSAP credit under a bill due to go to the governor this year, said Jerry DeLuca, executive director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. The proposed law would apply to public employees who are also volunteer firefighters and leave work with an employer's permission to provide emergency services, he said.
Siry said the board would likely formulate a formal policy on the practice in coming months.
This case could harm the village if it dissuades municipal employees from volunteering for the fire department, he said.
"Because they're volunteer, all departments have problems responding during the daytime," he said.
In the wake of the agreement, Amityville Fire Chief Rob Waegerle said: "I'm glad it's over. It's time to move on."