Removed from a village job. Rehired as a consultant. Pension benefits maximized.
Kenneth Callahan, who was among Long Island’s highest-paid village administrators last year making $218,000 annually, was removed from his job because he was a poor administrator but a “great treasurer,” said Old Westbury Mayor Fred Carillo. The village rehired Callahan as a $70,000-a-year accounting consultant after paying him more than $112,000 for unused vacation and sick days, and compensatory time.
Carillo also said he rehired Callahan to “help him out” so he could reach 20 years in the New York State and Local Retirement System and maximize his pension benefits.
Callahan, 59, served as village administrator for 18 years. Carillo and the board approved not rehiring Callahan at the July 18 village board meeting.
Departures like his are costly in the North Hempstead village of 4,600 residents. Old Westbury came under scrutiny in 2014 when police Chief Daniel Duggan received more than $1 million for his unused sick, personal, vacation and compensatory time payout. That same year, another member of the department, Lt. James T. Mayberry, received a payout of $578,686.
The village also spent $1.1 million in salary and retirement payouts to a retired police sergeant and a retired police investigator last year, records show.
Board members, in a 4-1 vote at the July 18 meeting, hired Brian S. Ridgway, 56, to replace Callahan with a title of village administrator and clerk-treasurer. Ridgway, who most recently worked as clerk/deputy village administrator for Garden City, is paid $130,000 annually. He started the Old Westbury job on July 19.
Callahan did not respond to requests for comment.
Carillo said Callahan wanted to stay on because he felt “attached” to the village. He was hired at the lower salary last week, Carillo said.
E.J. McMahon, president of the Albany-based Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative government watchdog think tank, said “on Long Island, we find that local governments seem to be especially ingenious in finding new ways to have weird employment arrangements.”
The mayor said he wanted the administrator’s office managed better, noting that Callahan’s administrative assistants didn’t use email.
“He didn’t have a scanner; he didn’t have a color printer — that I had to force on him,” Carillo said.
Carillo said he is keeping Callahan on because “our financial condition has been great.” He was to be paid for working three days a week, but offered to work five days at the $70,000 annual salary, Carillo said.
Callahan’s removal comes a year after political changes in the village. Carillo serves with four trustees elected or appointed in the past year.
Deputy Mayor Marina Chimerine said she told the mayor and board members that she opposed removing Callahan, but ultimately voted for Ridgway to replace him.
“I personally like Ken Callahan very much,” Chimerine said. “I’m not about removing people. I’m more about trying to fix it.”
The village board vote hiring Ridgway to replace Callahan was part of a series of personnel and committee appointments, Carillo said. Trustee Leslie Fastenberg was the sole vote against the appointments.
Carillo said he “had a lot of complaints” from residents about customer service in the administrator’s office.
“They felt intimidated, looked down upon,” Carillo said. Staff should “make it welcoming for residents who come to the counter,” he said, adding that Ridgway is “very customer-oriented.”
Ridgway, a former president of the New York State Association of City and Village Clerks, said he wanted “to bring Old Westbury to the next level of professional service, and I think with my abilities and dealing with people and issues, and my years of experience, that’s going to be obtainable.”