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Mayor: $1.23M to rid Schenectady of bad cops worth it

Mayor: $1.23M to rid Schenectady of bad cops worth it

The final bill for getting rid of eight Schenectady police officers: $1.23 million.

The final bill for getting rid of eight Schenectady police officers: $1.23 million.

That includes paying the officers while they were suspended, paying attorneys to build the cases against each officer, and paying the judge who oversaw each hearing.

It was a staggering amount, but considering that the city was nearing the $1 million mark when Mayor Brian U. Stratton fired the first officer in April, he was somewhat pleasantly surprised by the total.

“I thought it would be more, actually,” he said.

He added that removing the “bad apples” before they tainted the rest of the Police Department was worth the cost.

“We’re prepared to do what we have to do,” he said, emphasizing that he hasn’t declared victory.

But the last few disciplinary cases this summer cost far less than the ones that built up over the last three years. Officers agreed to resign before going through the lengthy, expensive and semi-public disciplinary hearing process. The first officers stayed on the payroll for more than two years, fighting every step of the way.

“The first ones probably thought it would be business as usual,” Stratton said. “[Recent officers] probably saw the progression.”

But officers who waited until the last moment and resigned days or hours before Stratton was going to fire them picked up two major benefits.

By state law, officers must be paid after their first 30 days of suspension. Those that waited made two or more years’ salary as they sat at home.

Also, they continue to earn vacation time while they’re out — so when they resigned, the city had to pay each of them thousands of dollars for vacation days they saved up while suspended.

The biggest earner was Andrew Karaskiewicz, who made $174,520 while suspended for allegedly striking a handcuffed man.

He cost the city $44,935 in legal expenses, for both his judge and the prosecuting attorneys.

The next-highest was Gregory Hafensteiner, who made $169,745 while suspended for kicking a handcuffed man in the head.

The city spent $50,873 in legal costs to fire him.

Getting rid of officers John Lewis and Sherri Barnes was also expensive.

It cost the city $71,628 to fire Lewis. He made $107,089 while suspended for a variety of violence domestic disputes and driving drunk off-duty.

Barnes made $97,633 while suspended for abusing prescription drugs. Although she resigned at the end of her criminal trial — just a day before the jury found her guilty — termination proceedings were already well under way. The city spent $78,288 on legal costs before she voluntarily resigned.

After those officers, the cost dropped precipitously.

The city spent $26,535 to get rid of Michael Brown, half as much as it cost to terminate earlier officers. But because Brown was on paid suspension for nearly two years after driving while intoxicated off-duty, he made $96,316 before the city finished his termination hearings.

As the process sped up, Kyle Hunter was suspended for less than a year for harassing his girlfriend. When he agreed to resign as part of a plea in criminal court, the city had spent just $76 on his termination. He made $54,595 while suspended.

The city also avoided serious legal costs when Dwayne Johnson agreed to resign as part of his criminal court plea. He had been suspended for abandoning his beat to occasionally work security at a Hess gas station or rest inside an apartment.

When he resigned, the city had only spent $754 on his termination.

But he still ended up near the top of the list for salary earned while suspended. He made $107,860, including $11,600 for vacation days and holidays he accrued while he was suspended.

He had to repay $1,019 as part of his plea deal.

The city also spent $26,000 trying to fire Darren Lawrence, accused of driving drunk off-duty and starting a bar fight.

But the city only cited the bar fight in the termination hearing, and Hearing Officer Jeffrey Selchick said one misdeed did not rise to the level of termination.

The city is now trying to fire him again, offering evidence of the alleged DWI. In the meantime, Lawrence remains on suspension. So far, he’s made $126,514 while suspended.

But others didn’t wait to see whether they would win their case.

Officer Daniel Bean left the department just months after he was told he would face a hearing for driving an off-duty officer home from the scene of a crash. The officer, Lewis, was allegedly drunk, but Bean did not perform sobriety tests.

The city spent $1,337 on legal costs before Bean left for a job at the Scotia Police Department.

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