NEW CITY – Suspended Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan sat in the fourth row during Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting and listened as the five-member board hired a public hearing officer and special prosecutor in his disciplinary case.
Behind him was a sea of blue about 100 Clarkstown police officers, representatives from all nine of Rockland’s local police departments and the sheriff’s office, and residents wearing supportive T-shirts crammed into Town Hall to condemn the board’s decision to suspend Sullivan.
“Chief Sullivan has had an impeccable career, he’s a great police chief and I support him 100 percent, as do all the chiefs in Rockland County,” Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn said before Tuesday night’s meeting.
Clarkstown Town Supervisor George Hoehmann said he respects Sullivan and couldn’t comment on pending legal proceedings.
Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting was the third time supporters have mobilized since Sullivan’s July 20 suspension by Hoehmann and the board.
A rally across from Town Hall in late July and at the Rockland Legislature’s recent meeting brought out officers and residents.
The town wouldn’t disclose why Sullivan was suspended but the chief revealed the disciplinary charges stemmed from his failure to immediately reassign a sergeant as Hoehmann demanded, and Sullivan’s social media commentary about litigation involving a former town officer. Sullivan has denied the accusations of misconduct and incompetence.
Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica, who was among Sullivan’s supporters Tuesday, called Sullivan’s suspension a “political witch hunt.”
“Law enforcement has a target on its back, whether it’s by terrorists or corrupt politicians. We can’t have that, and we’re going to fight it,” Modica said.
Before the meeting, the county PBA posted a letter on social media that said what is happening in Clarkstown can happen anywhere in Rockland.
“We, as law enforcement professionals, need to get the message out in a resounding fashion that we are not going to put up with political interference in our police departments,” the letter says.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Town Board appointed William Harrington, a top litigation partner at the White Plains firm of Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, as special prosecutor in the Sullivan case. Also, former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco was appointed as the hearing officer for the disciplinary charges.
Both votes were 4-0, with board member Stephanie Hausner, the lone Democrat, abstaining from both votes.
She questioned the qualifications of both the public hearing officer and special prosecutor and discussed a possible connection between the public hearing officer to the supervisor.