BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Clarkstown cops, police union leaders, officers’ spouses, Democratic Party operatives and others gathered at Tuesday’s Clarkstown Town Board meeting, holding a rally in support of suspended police chief, Michael Sullivan. It was also subtly a rally in support of law enforcement’s previously unquestioned “turf.”
During two hours of public comments the group took broadsides against the town board and Supervisor George Hoehmann. Their motives, their integrity and more were questioned and the charges against Sullivan described as “weak.”
Sullivan supporters claimed board members were playing politics and several questioned Hoehmann over ties many in his administration have to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. The suitability of former New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco to hear the case was repeatedly questioned, including by Democratic board member Stephanie Hausner.
As the crowd of police walked out of the meeting around 11:10 p.m. one amongst the group flipped the switch on the lights to the room, leaving everyone in the dark.
The gathering was the third major show of public support for Sullivan.
The suspension of Sullivan and the resultant blowback come in the wake of the first serious audit of the department’s bloated $50 million budget in many years. An audit which board members and Sullivan clashed over from day one.
In an interview this week with WRCR, Hoehmann painted the actions taken against Chief Sullivan as appropriate. The board felt Sullivan violated serious rules. The matter is now subject to due process. “I am doing what I was elected to do,” Hoehmann said.
The background leading to the current drama is fascinating.
A major antagonist of the soap opera, CPD Detective Stephen Cole-Hatchard, has long been known for political hijinx. While Cole-Hatchard’s recent job title as chief of the intel desk indicates he is an expert in intelligence gathering, he is best known to the public for his bad intel. Namely, his disastrous, failed legal strategy in the Mirant settlement case, which cost taxpayers $100 million.
Now we can add this to Cole-Hatchard’s history of dubious intelligence: exploiting his position as intel chief to conduct a politically motivated investigation against Supervisor George Hoehmann and getting caught leaking information to the Journal News. It was when the board asked that Cole-Hatchard be reassigned from the intel desk that the current drama unfolded. The board feels Sullivan obstructed their efforts, though he contends he ultimately yielded.
It is of note that Mr. Cole-Hatchard has deep ties to District Attorney Tom Zugibe personally, politically and financially.
Cole-Hatchard was an original investor in brother of Tom, Kevin Zugibe’s Hudson Technologies. The DA’s Office buys services from a company Cole-Hatchard founded and fronted, Frontline Data Services. Conveniently, Frontline, Hudson and the Rockland Intel Unit are neighbors at 1 Blue Hill in Pearl River. In 2014 Zugibe hired Cole-Hatchard’s son Andrew to work in his office.
This week Zugibe led an effort to express law enforcement’s dismay at Hoehmann’s accessing police emails during his inquiry into Cole-Hatchard’s activities. Several police departments and the District Attorney’s Office implemented an email freeze, and then blamed Hoehmann for the decreased security this freeze supposedly imposed on the public
Town officials in Clarkstown were broadsided by the move. While unwritten rules may exist, police emails are owned by the town government and there is no law stating the town supervisor cannot have access to them if there is good reason, one source told the Rockland County Times.
Of course, the whole story would not be complete without a lawsuit by Cole-Hatchard. Mr. Cole-Hatchard has sued the town for reassigning him away from the intel desk.