A meeting that discussed the suspension of a volunteer Westchester County police chaplain didn’t delve too deeply into his Brooklyn residency or qualifications after the county police commissioner invoked state privacy laws.
Lawmakers asked the commissioner of the county Department of Public Safety about Jeremy Reichberg, who is suspended pending completion of a federal probe into whether gifts and trips were given to NYPD brass in exchange for favors.
Commissioner George Longworth, however, responded that he didn’t want to discuss the matter at a public meeting. He cited an internal “Personal Information” document listing Reichberg’s credentials as being protected under state privacy laws.
There are no residency or education requirements for the chaplain position, according to the department.
“If a job of a volunteer position has an education requirement, I have no problem proving a person meets the requirement,” he read from a paper. “If a job of a volunteer position has a residency requirement, I have no problem discussing where someone lives.
If the position of police chaplain has any legal requirements at all, I’d be happy to discuss details.
But we go down a very slippery slope when we entertain personal questions about our people that have nothing to do with the legal requirements of the position they hold.”
Although Longworth said Reichberg graduated rabbinical college and was therefore a rabbi, the name of the institution the suspended chaplain graduated from wasn’t publicly spoken.
Previously, The Journal News reported that it was unclear which rabbinical college Reichberg graduated from.
“The (personal information) form (Reichberg submitted) notes he is a graduate of a rabbinical college,” county police spokesman Kieran O’Leary wrote in an email earlier this month. “I cannot read his handwriting and have reached out to try to determine the name of the school.”
Reichberg was hired in June 2013, the same month that Republican County Executive Rob Astorino’s re-election campaign received $15,000 from JSR Capital and two other companies with which it shared an office suite.
JSR is owned by Reichberg’s friend Jona Rechnitz, who is also involved in the probe.
Longworth said he met Reichberg through a mutual acquaintance who served on the county police board.
Reichberg was a good candidate because he had knowledge of Jewish law and police matters, having served as a liaison in his community to the NYPD, he said.
Citing personnel matters protected under privacy laws, the legislative committee retreated into a closed-doors executive session and once they returned only spoke of the hiring process in broad terms.
Legislator Catherine Borgia, a Democrat, asked if to obtain a volunteer position such as chaplain that a candidate had to “know someone.”
“I do think if you’re running an operation where you have volunteers who are representing a large and diverse county as we have, knowing your county legislator or knowing the county executive or knowing someone in your staff shouldn’t be the only way you have access to volunteers,” she told Longworth.
The commissioner said that there were other ways potential candidates were identified, including the department keeping letters from people who write expressing interest in volunteer opportunities.
By Mark Lungariello – Lohud.com