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James Burke due $434,000 for unused sick and vacation time

James Burke, ex-Chief of Department of the Suffolk

James Burke, ex-Chief of Department of the Suffolk County Police, addresses Suffolk County Legislators in Hauppauge on Feb. 2, 2012. Credit: Ed Betz

Former Suffolk police chief James Burke will get a check for $434,370 for unused sick and vacation time as he faces federal charges for beating a man under arrest and orchestrating a cover-up.

County Comptroller John Kennedy’s office on Monday disclosed the payout to ex-top uniformed cop in the county, who was allowed to retire in November.

Burke, who is in federal detention, also will get a pension, although the state comptroller’s office said the amount had not been calculated.

Burke made $209,972.37 in 2015 and $228,768 in 2014.

Federal prosecutors have charged Burke with beating Christopher Loeb, who had stolen a duffel bag from Burke’s department-issued SUV, as Loeb was handcuffed to the floor in a police precinct in December 2012.

According to the charges, Burke then orchestrated a wide-ranging cover-up of the beating. In an unusual move, a federal judge has ordered him held in prison without bail.

Burke has pleaded not guilty.

The payout drew sharp criticism from some Republican county legislators.

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore.) said Burke’s payout is “just an absolute insult to not only residents of Suffolk County but to every man and woman in the Suffolk County police department who carries out his responsibilities.”

Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone criticized the compensation system, which is set out in union contracts.

“These large payouts are unfair and offensive to taxpayers and are one more unfortunate byproduct of decades of a broken binding arbitration system,” Bellone said in a statement.

Contracts negotiated with politically active police unions guarantee the payouts to police officers in Suffolk, Nassau and the town and village departments across Long Island.

Under the contracts, police employees can get payouts for up to 120 days of vacation time and 300 days of sick time. Burke will be paid for 114 vacation days and 300 sick days, the comptroller’s office said.

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) had called on Bellone to demote Burke to the rank of captain before Burke retired officially on Nov. 12, which Trotta said would have saved the county $100,000 in exit pay.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said, “at that point in time no charges had been filed.”

In 2014, the latest year for which total county payroll was available, 53 police employees got retirement payouts of $100,000 or more each, with one detective lieutenant receiving $285,851. In total, police received more than $10.7 million in retirement payouts, while retirees in other county departments received about $6 million in payouts.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said that although he was concerned about the amount of Burke’s payout, “it’s what he’s entitled to.”

Gregory said that if Burke is convicted, he would consider pursuing some type of clawback to recoup the money. “If a remedy is available, we’ll do that,” he said.

Trotta on Monday filed a proposed resolution to create a bipartisan six member legislative committee with subpoena power to probe alleged wrongdoing at top levels of the county police department.

Gregory said a legislative probe could interfere with the ongoing federal prosecution of Burke already underway.

Burke’s attorney, Joseph Conway, did not return calls for comment Monday.

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