The Town of Orchard Park agreed to spend $210,000 to settle a lawsuit from police officers that troubled board members with what seemed like a petty request to be paid for the time it takes to put on and take off a uniform and gear.
“It’s a little frustrating for the Town Board to have to shell out that kind of money so that people can get dressed for work and get undressed,” said Supervisor Patrick Keem, who signed the check last week for part of the settlement sum. “It can’t be take, take, take all the time. There’s got to be some give on the part of our Police Department … It leaves a bad taste in our mouth.”
The lawsuit filed in 2009 before Keem came into office started with a $2 million request for compensation from 26 current and retired police officers.
Councilman Michael Sherry, who retired as assistant chief of the Police Department in 2006 after 25 years of service, said suiting up for work took him between one and two minutes. Even though the gear was cumbersome with a bulletproof vest, gun belt with handcuffs, flashlight, extra rounds of ammunition, a police baton and radio, it didn’t take much time to deal with, he said.
“It’s like someone driving to work,” he said. “It’s just what you have to do to start your shift or your tour of duty, wherever you’re employed.”
As part of the agreement finalized last month, the officers will receive $72,000 to be divided among themselves. The lawyers get a bigger portion of the funds, with $53,000 for officers’ attorney Paul Weiss, a partner in Bartlo, Hettler and Weiss. An additional $85,026.08 will go to the town’s representative, Matthew Van Vessem, a partner at Goldbert Segalla.
A police representative said Monday he was not ready to comment on the suit and settlement.
“I can’t go into it,” said Officer Pat McLaughlin, vice president of the Police Benevolent Association. “I don’t want to go into it without speaking to our PBA attorney.”