The Hempstead Village Board of Trustees unanimously voted Tuesday night to appoint three acting police chiefs into permanent positions and to put Officer Randy Stith on administrative duty after his April arrest.
Chief Paul Johnson, Assistant Chief Patrick Cooke and Deputy Chief Richard Holland now have contracts that expire on May 31, 2021. Johnson’s first-year salary is $224,496. Cooke’s is $206,536 and Holland’s is $191,620, according to copies of their contracts.
Johnson and Holland were sworn in to their acting positions June 7 following unanimous votes by the board on June 5. Cooke’s vote originally failed 5-1 that night, but he was later appointed by a 3-2 vote on June 19.
Their appointments follow the May 31 retirements of former Chief Michael McGowan, Assistant Chief Joseph Sortino and Deputy Chief Mark Matthews.
The top chief’s spot is based in part off his or her Civil Service test scores. The board had to choose one of the top three scorers. Johnson was the highest scorer.
The other two positions are appointed and could have been from any of the department’s lieutenants, even if they did not take the Civil Service test. Cooke scored last of the six lieutenants who took the test and Holland scored fourth.
The board’s vote regarding Stith was 4-0, with an abstention from Mayor Don Ryan, who has called Stith his “godson." It allows Johnson to determine Stith's duties as his criminal case continues.
Johnson said Stith will do nonenforcement administrative work. A temporary order of protection against him prohibits him from having firearms.
Stith, 27, is charged with stealing money from the village fire department and falsifying a letter of recommendation to become a police officer. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to return to court July 16. He remains a member of the Hempstead school board.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Teresa Corrigan last month issued a temporary order of protection against Stith, forbidding him from contacting a village firefighter.
The board voted twice in May to keep Stith on paid administrative leave as his case plays out. The first vote was taken without proper public notice and had to be recast. Ryan recused himself. Several community members have spoken against Stith's arrest and commended the board for keeping him on paid leave.
Stith is accused of stealing more than $6,500 from the fire department's Southside Hose 2 when he was treasurer from February 2015 to January. Prosecutors have also alleged that he filed a forged recommendation letter in April 2015 "purporting to be signed by another member" of his fire company after the Nassau County Civil Service Commission initially denied his application to be a police officer.