But this is what happens to words when they’re moved from the mouths of disinterested desk sergeants at the Saratoga Springs Police Department and into the world of litigation. Two of the Spa City’s finest are now embroiled in civil litigation as a result of injuries they supposedly sustained while on the job.
The first to file suit was Keith Pellegri, then a 17-year veteran of the force who was sideswiped by a drunk driver leaving the Dave Matthews’ concert in June 2006. At the time, city police reported Pellegri’s injuries as minor and even debated whether his marked Ford Explorer was totaled in the wreck. Two months after the crash, he was well enough to ride in a benefit motorcycle ride, but remained on limited duty with the department due to his medical condition.
Then on New Year’s Day this year, another veteran officer was involved in an on-duty crash. This time, it was 28-year veteran Joseph Arpei, whose cruiser was struck by a driver that allegedly blew through a stop sign. Though the accident was described by police as fairly serious, they indicated Arpei was treated “for minor injuries” at Saratoga Hospital and released the same day.
These injuries have since grown in severity, according to Brian Lee, their ambulance chasing attorney representing both officers. Arpei’s injuries could end the patrolman’s career and Pellegri’s injuries have prevented the officer from working full-time, according to Lee, who was recently voted as having the “top law office” by Saratogian readers.
The curious thing about all of this legal wrangling is that both of these officers should theoretically receive disability from the city, workers compensation for an injury on the job or a combination thereof. Perhaps their medical bills are to an extent they have overstepped the amount covered by the city’s insurance. But if this were the case, one could safely assume someone among city hall’s legions of union-loving police advocates –Ron Kim perhaps –would have made quite a stink by now.
The so-called public safety commissioner, as we’ve recently learned, is all about getting a bit of extra scratch for the city’s men in blue. In fact, Kim is asking for $64,000 worth of extra scratch to augment the department’s burgeoning level of overtime; something that is undoubtedly augmented by two veteran officers being pulled off patrols due to injuries sustained on duty, But Kim’s overtime request isn’t in response to injuries, of which the department has sustained its fair share over the last three years.
Instead, Kim wants the added cash to fund the coverage shortfalls created by the State Police unit that was removed from the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, even though he’s presented positively no evidence the racino needs $64,000 worth of police presence to augment their private security force. As explained recently by both Kim and Police Chief Ed Moore, these officers will respond at the racino in the even they are called to make an arrest, much as they did five years ago before the damn harness track was filled with slot machines and grannies. Breaking this down, that’s $64,000 for the police to do exactly what they would have done anyway.
But for fellow of Kim’s vastly superior knowledge of police services, the thousands of dollars of overtime are necessary for providing deterrence to the nogoodniks now flocking to the racino. Truth is, the cash would be better invested in installing a heftier wheelchair ramp at the facility and perhaps a few extra defibrillators; perhaps a standby ambulance crew and paramedic in the event there was a mob scene involving the racino’s geriatric clientele.
Instead, it will get tacked onto the department’s out-of-control overtime allocation, which has consistently gone over budget under Kim’s tenure. This year’s budget includes a 7 percent increase in the police overtime allotment for a total of $160,470, which is more than any other office in garners in the city. Kim’s increase for the racino would boost this a amount by roughly 40 percent. In other words, eat your Wheaties, coppers. You’re in for some long hours this year.
Given these numbers, it’s a bit suspicious Kim is advocating such a monumental increase, especially for something as benign as the racino. But seeing as though there is no line item in the budget for racino patrols, this cash will likely be lumped in with the standard overtime allotment. That gives Kim and Moore a $64,000 cushion to keep guys on sick leave that may have no intention of coming back to the department. And it’s a carte-blanche for them to neglect any cost-saving analysis of the department’s ranks.