Nassau County agreed to pay $24,000 to retired NYPD Det. Richard "Bo" Dietl to write a report on the feasibility of merging the Hempstead and Freeport police departments into Nassau's force -- a proposal officials for both villages didn't know about.
Dietl, chairman and chief executive of the Manhattan-based private investigation firm of Beau Dietl & Associates and a frequent cable news commentator on law enforcement issues, was selected as the winning bidder to serve as a "special adviser on public safety" to County Executive Edward Mangano "or his designee" for four months last year at a rate of $6,000 monthly, according to county contract documents.
Dietl advised acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, serving as Mangano's designee, a Mangano spokesman said. Dietl submitted a 13-page report, which was obtained by Newsday, to Mangano in November. The report did not make any recommendations on whether a merger should occur.
Officials in both villages said they were blindsided by the county's move to examine a possible merger plan -- and only became aware of the feasibility study when contacted by a Newsday reporter.
The village officials said they don't support merging their departments into Nassau's 2,244-member force -- which would require a majority vote by each village board to make a charter revision -- citing the level of service that residents receive from having local departments.
"This is a very irresponsible report," Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, a Democrat, said in an email. "The Freeport Police Department is second to none and we would never consider this."
Hempstead Village Police Chief Michael McGowan said he didn't have any notice that a study was being performed. "I would prefer to see a more in-depth and detailed study," he said.
No legislative scrutiny
The contract for the merger report was exempt from legislative scrutiny because it fell just below the $25,000 level, which would have mandated the pact go before the county legislature's Rules Committee.
Nassau acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said Wednesday in a statement that her office, which is already examining the county's contract process, would review Dietl's contract. "$24,000 for a 13-page cut-and-paste report raises serious questions," she said. "Our comprehensive review of Nassau County's contracting process is ongoing, and it will include a thorough examination of this contract."
Both Mangano, a Republican, and Krumpter declined interview requests on the contract designating Dietl to do the study and the report itself.
In a written statement, Krumpter said Nassau is the "safest large suburban county in America," but pointed out that eight of the county's 18 homicides in 2014 were in Hempstead Village, "where the murder rate is among the highest in the region based on population." The Nassau police department's homicide squad investigates all slayings in the county.
Krumpter's statement added: "Accordingly, the county solicited professionals to study the feasibility of consolidating the police departments of the Village of Freeport and Village of Hempstead with the Nassau County Police Department. Thereafter, the county procured services from Beau Dietl ... Associates, whom submitted a preliminary analysis. A final report is still being compiled by the vendor."
Dietl, in an interview with Newsday, said he considered the submitted report his final version but said he would make changes, answer questions and testify before a legislative panel as part of his contractual duties. He said he was awaiting feedback from county officials.
But Dietl said he has yet to be compensated for his work. "Maybe you can help me get paid," he said to a reporter with a chuckle. "I haven't gotten paid yet. . . . My accountant better start calling over there because I haven't received a check yet."
A history with Nassau
Dietl has done work for the county in the past. In 2011, Nassau's Department of Public Works awarded Dietl a contract for $24,947 for "security consulting services" at the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant.
The county issued a request for proposals and in a July 20, 2011, interdepartmental memo, Kenneth G. Arnold, assistant to the commissioner, said Dietl's firm "received the highest technical ranking" and proposed "reasonable cost."
In that report, which was submitted to the county in February 2012, Dietl's firm made five recommendations, including that Nassau either re-instruct employees about how important security is or hire a dedicated security company to man the plant's front gate. It is not clear if any of the recommendations were carried out.
James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said both contracts with Dietl are a waste of money because the services sought could have been performed by the police department.
"That the police commissioner sought to hire Bo Dietl, a retired detective from NYCPD, who never ran a police department or any division within the police department . . . shows either a lack of talent in his administration or a lack of faith in his administrators to do the research that he requested from Mr. Dietl," Carver said.
The consolidation report concludes that Hempstead's police department is "over staffed in the senior administration ranks and would not fit into the command structure" of Nassau's department and states "there would be savings in the elimination of some of these positions."
Dietl's report added that "training, administrative and equipment costs can be consolidated resulting in savings."
The report does not offer projected savings amounts. Dietl said he thought residents in both villages could save about $1,000 a year in taxes as a result of the merger, but when pressed on the validity of the figure, Dietl said he would have to examine it further.
"That number was thrown at me by somebody and I was not able to verify it," he said. "I'm a police expert; I'm not the financial guy. I guarantee you there's a certain amount in the people's taxes of Hempstead and the town of Freeport that they're paying an additional factor on the police. If you could find that out, it would be a very interesting part of the story."
Hempstead's McGowan called his 124-sworn-member department "efficient and well-run" and disputed the report's claim that it's top-heavy.
"We're cognizant of the fact that we have to manage our supervisors," said McGowan, who said lieutenants and sergeants typically split their time supervising more than one unit.
Alexander Weiss, an adjunct professor at Michigan State University's Program on Police Consolidation and Shared Services, has authored 30 police staffing studies and police department merger reports in places such as California and Michigan.
Weiss, president of Chicago-based Alexander Weiss Consulting, said his consolidation feasibility studies have typically numbered 50 to 75 pages and included input from all police agencies involved in the potential merger and analysis on the number of officers versus the number of service calls -- information not included in Dietl's study.
Weiss, who reviewed Dietl's report at Newsday's request, said it provided "kind of an overview of questions, but in order to get to the answers, it would require more work in my opinion."
Weiss called it "just the beginning" and said, "I would have expected to see a greater level of analysis, especially related to the potential cost and benefits. . . . I tend to think of these consolidations as an opportunity to save money at the top -- but the real money is at the bottom -- that's where the real savings is, and he didn't talk about that at all as far as I could tell."
No outreach to villages
Dietl said he wasn't tasked with reaching out to the village police forces. "I know what their perspective is going to be," he said. "They have their own department. When people have their own department, they try and keep that together. How you gonna tell somebody all of a sudden, 'You're not gonna be the chief of police, now you're gonna be part of this big enterprise.' So that wasn't my job. My job was to evaluate the crime statistics and the feasibility of these two towns being put under Nassau County."
Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams said he was unaware of the contract until Krumpter told him about the study -- less than an hour after Newsday inquired with the Nassau police department.
"This is a contract that I truly believe is a waste of taxpayers' dollars," said Abrahams (D-Freeport). "For the strict reason, it's being done in a vacuum. . . . It doesn't make much sense to why we would spend $24,000."
Dietl was chosen as the contract awardee despite not being the lowest bidder, according to an April 7, 2014, memo from Mangano's office. The memo does not provide details of the bid or the bid amounts. The county sought bids from Dietl; Michael Balboni, a former state senator and Homeland Security adviser under two governors; and Ted Leb, a former executive vice president of the NYPD's Finest Foundation, according to the memo.
But only Dietl and Balboni submitted bids. Balboni has donated more than $17,000 to Mangano's campaign since 2013.
While Balboni and Dietl are both "highly qualified" to provide the services, the memo says, only Dietl had "previous successful law enforcement service."
Sean Randall, president of the Freeport Police Benevolent Association, said he was unaware that the county was considering a consolidation and questioned Dietl's ability to offer analysis.
"He was a detective in New York City," Randall said. "I don't think he's qualified. I see him on TV and he's entertaining."
Randall said he's heard rumblings of consolidation over the years but never took it seriously. "I don't think the county can afford it," he said, citing Freeport police's approximately $17 million budget. "They can't even fill potholes on Merrick Road."