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Suffolk PD employees lead list of top county earners

Suffolk Police officers and brass dominated the list

Suffolk Police officers and brass dominated the list of top county earners in 2014, accounting for 284 of the 300 highest paid active workers, according to the legislative budget office. Credit: NEWSDAY / John Paraskevas

Suffolk police officers and brass dominated the list of top county earners in 2014, accounting for 284 of the 300 highest-paid active workers, according to the legislative budget office.

The top-paid active worker in 2014 was Det. Sgt. David Tricamo, who made $241,149 in base salary, overtime and other pay, including longevity, determined by years of service, the Budget Review Office said.

The next highest paid was Lt. Kevin Burke, with $233,483, followed by James Burke, chief of department, who made $228,768 last year. They are not related.

In total, 98 active county employees each made more than $200,000 last year. All except four are police employees.

There were 118 employees who made $200,000 or more in 2013. More than half of those were sheriff's employees.

Increased overtime and union pay raises pushed police department salaries to the top spots this year. In 2013, sheriff employees had 128 of the top 300 highest-paid spots, largely due to a one-time $37 million arbitration award to correction officers.

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said he appreciates the work police do and believes they should be paid well.

"But I'm concerned that we have nearly 100 employees who are earning in excess of $200,000 a year," Cilmi said.

Noel DiGerolamo, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said, "I believe the people are very well served for the dollars being spent."

Suffolk police bargaining units are halfway through contracts negotiated in 2012 by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and passed by the county legislature. The largest contract, with the PBA, contains raises totaling more than 28 percent, including a 6.11 percent increase this year. The agreements last through 2018.

The salary report, which the budget review compiles annually, is based on federal W-2 data. It contains job title and pay, but not employee names. Newsday obtained the names from Suffolk payroll data collected by the county comptroller.

The report also does not include termination pay for unused sick and vacation time that many retiring employees collect. The top termination pay was $285,851 in 2014. In total, 22 employees received termination pay in excess of $200,000; all were in the police department.

Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the report highlights what he said were the overly generous police contracts negotiated by Bellone. "The PBA has negotiated fantastic contracts for their membership," said Trotta, who was a 25-year Suffolk police veteran.

He retired as a detective in 2014 and received $215,521 in termination pay. "In this economy, is it ridiculous? Absolutely," he said of his termination payout. "But it's what the county executive negotiated."

Trotta also earned $100,124 as a county legislator in 2014.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Bellone has done his part by reducing the number of county employees and freezing his own pay at $187,050.

"The things County Executive Bellone can control -- the overall size of the payroll and things like his own paycheck -- he's working hard to control," Schneider said.

The report said total payroll dropped by 3.1 percent in 2014, or $29.4 million, as the number of employees decreased by 299, to 12,659.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he was happy to see the overall reduction in payroll since 2010.

He said the police earnings are a reflection of the contracts negotiated by Bellone. "You get what you pay for," he said. "We have an excellent police force. You have to pay for quality."

The 10 highest-paid active employees did not respond to requests for comment to the police department.

Nassau County paid more than a half-million dollars each in salary and termination pay to seven retiring police officers last year, and another county worker who won back pay in a labor dispute, Newsday reported last month.

In Suffolk, including termination pay and salary, the highest payout last year went to a police detective who made $384,562.

In Suffolk, overtime for sworn police personnel increased by $10.4 million, according to the report. Nineteen employees earned more in overtime than in base salary. Of those, 16 were in the police department, two were in Fire and Rescue Emergency Services and one was a registered nurse in the health department jail medical unit.

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