Beleaguered P. C. police chief to retire
Eighteen-year Port Chester Police Chief Joseph Krzeminski has chosen to retire effective Jan. 2, 2014.
Police Chief Joseph Krzeminski
At a special closed-door meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Village Board of Trustees reviewed and approved an agreement that provides for the chief's resignation for purposes of retirement. Mayor Neil Pagano signed the agreement which Krzeminski had already signed.
A press release from Chris Ameigh, administrative intern to Village Manager Christopher Steers, states that "the Chief's resignation is voluntary and is not related to the ongoing evidence investigation."
Under the terms of the agreement, the chief agrees to make an "irrevocable resignation for the purposes of retirement." He will be placed on paid administrative leave retroactive to Oct. 29 when he had been suspended pending the results of an investigation.
Krzeminski agrees to make himself available to the village manager until the date of his retirement.
"I can't comment on that; it's just a big mess," said Krzeminski when reached Wednesday evening shortly after the press release was issued.
Later in the conversation, Krzeminski said: "I'm quite depressed. I'm really going through a tough time. This is not the way I wanted my career to end."
"Chief Krzeminski served the Village for over 33 years," said Steers. "He has two sons in the Police Department and is a friend to many of us. With all things considered, I believe that the agreement is the most desirable outcome for all concerned. We wish him the best in his future endeavors."
"I have known the chief for a long time. He will be missed," said Mayor Pagano.
"I am glad that the parties have come to an agreement," the mayor added. "This agreement best positions the village to move forward."
Krzeminski meanwhile said he hasn't been feeling well and doctors still haven't been able to determine the cause of seizures he experienced starting back in August which caused him to be out of the office on medical leave since Aug. 30.
On Sept. 5, Captain John Telesca was appointed acting police chief, filling in until Krzeminski was fit to return to work. At the time, the village board directed the chief "not to exercise any of the authority, responsibilities and duties associated with being the Chief of Police" until he was authorized to return to duty.
Since then, things have only gone downhill for Krzeminski, who was arrested three separate times within a matter of days and faces both state and federal charges.
Due to a clash with Telesca at his home on Oct. 28, the chief was suspended without pay.
What Krzeminski described at the time as an argument involving the two pushing each other led to a warrant for his arrest on charges of criminal trespass in the 2nd degree and harassment in the 2nd degree to which he surrendered at the Rye Police Department on Nov. 4.
After the arraignment, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a federal warrant for Krzeminski's arrest on charges of tampering with and retaliating against a witness in a federal investigation being conducted by the FBI, that being Telesca.
The complaint states the FBI has been conducting an investigation since early September into allegations surrounding the disappearance of more than $26,000 in cash and narcotics from an evidence room at the Port Chester Police Department and other allegations of theft and misconduct and that Krzeminski physically threatened and retaliated against Telesca, who has been cooperating with the FBI in its investigation.
According to the complaint, Krzeminski forced his way inside Telesca's Port Chester home and shouted that he was a "rat" and a "rat bastard" and said "who do you think you are telling these people what's going on?"
After posting a $100,000 bond, he was released into the custody of his son William.
If convicted, the 62-year-old faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the two counts.
Krzeminski's preliminary hearing in federal court in White Plains on Dec. 4 was continued until Jan. 1 (a holiday), according to the court docket, so it is likely to be rescheduled.
The half kilo of cocaine was found last month by detectives in a separate evidence room at the Port Chester police station. The money has not been recovered.
"In a perfect world, you would know where all of these things are," said Telesca Wednesday evening. "I can't speak for why certain people who were in charge of the evidence rooms didn't know why things weren't where they were thought to be. The important thing is they have been located. Now it is incumbent upon us to make sure that doesn't happen again to the best of our abilities, so that's what we're working on."
As far as getting to the bottom of the missing cash, Telesca said: "Who knows how this is going to play out? There are still things in play."
Krzeminski's first arrest of the three stemmed from an incident on Oct. 31 when he forced his way into the conference room at Village Hall where the village board was about to go into a closed-door session and refused to leave, eventually being handcuffed and arrested. He was charged with obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
The two Port Chester justices both recused themselves from hearing either of the local cases, so they have been transferred to the White Plains court.
Telesca had no comment about the chief retiring or the court matters involving the two.
"All of the arrests are stemming from complaints either proffered by John Telesca or at the encouragement of Captain Telesca," said the chief's attorney, Warren J. Roth of White Plains, last month. "The two went from being the best of friends for 30 years to now having a very strained relationship."
Attorney Max DiFabio of White Plains, who is also the Port Chester village prosecutor, is representing Krzeminski in the federal case and has declined comment.
"They are going to have to play themselves out in due time," said Telesca of the legal matters.
Asked if he plans to take the chief's test when it is next offered, Telesca said he did.
"It hasn't been announced yet," he said, adding that it's not given very often because "there is not too much call for chiefs."
"I'm not sure if the board is going to call for an exam or how far down into the ranks it would go to allow eligibility," said Mayor Pagano late Wednesday night. "It has to be sorted out and thought through if that's on the table at this point. It is premature. We haven't had a chance to vet that."
He did say that given the upcoming retirement of the chief, "it gives us a chance to take a good look at the department and the way to go in the future--the present organization or a different setup. We have the opportunity to chart the department for the next number of years. The board needs to step back and take a good hard look and see what is in the best interest of the village."
Since Telesca has been acting chief, several personnel changes--including promotions and divisional moves--have occurred in the police department. Movement of Det. Lt. Royal Monroe to the Patrol Division led to his decision to retire. Telesca said other changes were planned as well.
"I plan to make as many meaningful and beneficial improvements as I can working closely with the manager, and we've got quite a lot of ideas and plans for the department and want to move a lot of things forward," Telesca said. "As long as I'm in a position to do so, we will continue to strive toward that end."
Examples are a complete overhaul of the department's procedure manual and rules and regulations that govern conduct and behavior in the department which haven't been updated since 1990. "Times change, the world changes and we have to change with it," he said.
He also intends to overhaul the evidence tracking, storage and reporting process, which is already underway. "There will be some physical changes made to the building to enhance our ability to track and store evidence as well as software enhancements for tracking and storage, all automated to take a lot of the indecisiveness out of where it is today," Telesca said.
"I'm looking forward to being on the move and on the go with training improvements, enhancements to the building and procedures," he concluded. "It's kind of exciting right now. I want to try the best I can to keep the momentum going forward."
Telesca made it clear, however, that he's only acting chief. "All I'm doing is filling a gap right now," he said. "I haven't been appointed chief."
"John Telesca has stepped up and done an incredible job under very difficult conditions," said the mayor. "He's shown true leadership skills. He has taken on tremendous responsibility and has come through very impressively. I believe he does want to stay on, but at the same time the board has to look at the organizational structure of the department and weigh its options. But John is to be commended for what he's done."
Because of Telesca's "ability and very professional attitude, he's really giving us some breathing space," said Pagano. In his mind, Telesca is a prime candidate for chief.