New York State Police special unit raids Troopers PBA offices

New York State Police special unit raids Troopers PBA offices

ALBANIA — The State Police Special Investigations Unit on Tuesday raided the headquarters of the New York State Police Benevolent Association and the nearby office of the Signal 30 Benefit Fund, which has raised millions of dollars for charitable causes.

It is unclear whether the raid also targeted the “Surgeons Group”, which like the Signal 30 Benefit Fund is a fundraising arm of the PBA that offers honorary memberships to paid supporters. The Surgeons Group, which shares offices with the PBA, has raised millions of dollars for the union through sales of official-looking “Trooper Surgeon” banners that come with an identification card and a gold badge that reads “State Police Surgeon PBA. “

SIU members kept a low profile as they executed search warrants at the State Street office of the PBA and also at the nearby Signal 30 office on Howard Street. They used unmarked vehicles and, in the case of the APB office, a rear entrance. The office is a block away from the state Capitol, where Gov. Kathy Hochul was delivering her State of the State address Tuesday afternoon, as the raid quietly unfolded.

The raid by the labor union representing several thousand state troopers follows allegations of widespread policy violations, including undisclosed conflicts of interest and questionable financial and employment practices that were first reported by the Times Union.

It is unclear whether the SIU began its investigation based on a complaint or is working with a prosecutorial agency. SIU members are not part of the Army PBA and are represented by a separate union representing State Police investigators.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which regulates nonprofit organizations, the Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Albany will all have jurisdiction over any criminal investigation of the PBA.

“This is part of an ongoing investigation and we have cooperated fully with investigators over the past several months,” PBA general counsel Daniel Strollo said in a statement. “The current APB leadership team is committed to the integrity of the organization and we welcome the assistance of the Special Investigations Unit in uncovering past wrongdoing by individuals who are no longer part of the APB.

The new union leaders had previously declined to say whether they would report any of the alleged misconduct they uncovered to an outside agency. The union in recent months has similarly refused to answer written questions from the Times Union about internal strife and its business practices.

Union unrest boiled over at an Oct. 6 meeting at the organization’s State Street headquarters. Former longtime PBA president Thomas H. Mungeer put the group in what would be a more than six-hour executive session, according to minutes of the meeting obtained by the Times Union.

When the board emerged from that closed-door session, its members had accepted the resignation of their longtime general counsel, Richard E. Mulvaney, who is a former New York Police Department lieutenant and had been a confidant of Mungeer for many years. Later in the meeting, Mungeer, who had been PBA president for more than 13 years, informed the group that he would be taking a leave of absence.

The unrest began last year with an uprising on the board of directors led by a coalition of troops from western New York. Their criticism centered in part on the installation about a year ago of a new treasurer, Charles W. Murphy, who had begun investigating the organization’s finances and spending practices. Among those revelations was that PBA had a long-standing contract with Epic Risk Solutions, a small brokerage in Goshen founded and operated by Michael S. Klugman, whose firm specializes in providing enhanced coverage plans to unions. different state bodies. Both Mulvaney and Mungeer have insurance licenses, and their credentials list the address — and, in Mungeer’s case, the business email — of Epic Risk Solutions.

On November 18, the PBA board issued a bulletin to its members, explaining their earlier decision to cut ties with the Orange County insurance firm. In addition to mentioning Mulvaney and Mungeer’s connection to the firm, they wrote that Klugman “confirmed that Richard Mulvaney has a financial interest in the company. These licenses and associations with — and financial interests in — Epic Risk Solutions were not disclosed to the board.”

Klugman told the Times Union in November that Mulvaney and Mungeer “did nothing wrong” and “were not connected to my company.” He said they had never signed an insurance contract for a PBA client or received any compensation for that business.

“There was never any inappropriate behavior,” Klugman said. “So the claims put out there by the PBA are completely false.”

But the uprising at the Oct. 6 PBA meeting, an action that had been planned in advance by members seeking to oust longtime union leaders, extended beyond the alleged conflict of interest with the insurance broker.

At the same meeting, the board also voted to create a committee to investigate “violations of PBA policies” and another committee to investigate “allegations of misconduct by Thomas Mungeer alleged to have occurred on or about (August 23 ).

It is unclear which policies may have been violated. The second charge related to a case that remains under investigation by the state Office of Employee Relations in which a female trooper accused Mungeer of making sexual comments to her during an event at a Syracuse hotel on the eve of New York State Fair.

The meeting took place at a DoubleTree Hotel off the Thruway in Syracuse, where the PBA hosts an annual dinner for dozens of troopers and supervisors assigned to the fair’s work safety detail. A person familiar with the matter said Mungeer has denied making the remarks and said his exchange with the female soldier was about what Mungeer believed were disparaging remarks she had made about the PBA.

Mungeer has refused to comment since leaving the PBA.

The PBA board also voted in early October to create a “committee on financial integrity to review spending and employment practices.” State Police sources said the concerns raised about the expenses were focused on expenses for obviously lavish dinners and other social outings. The board also eliminated the payment of “leadership stipends,” although it is unclear who received them and how much they were paid.

At the same meeting, board members proposed amending the union’s constitution to allow a two-thirds majority of the executive board to suspend someone “where there is reasonable cause to believe that such individual has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the interests of best friends.” The change appeared to be explicitly designed to remove Mungeer.

After the board voted to schedule a special meeting for Oct. 11 to vote on that change, Mungeer immediately informed his colleagues that he was “taking a voluntary leave of absence.” A few weeks later, Mungeer – who had been president of the union since 2009 – tendered his resignation.

PBA First Vice President Andrew C. Davis assumed the duties of acting president after Mungeer took his leave of absence and has remained in that position pending the election of a new president. According to the State Police, Mungeer is undergoing “refresher training” at the State Police Academy in Albany before being reassigned to the position of a trooper in Troop F.

Benefit fund, favored doctors

Financial concerns have also been raised about the union’s management of nonprofits, including the Signal 30 Benefit Fund, which has raised millions of dollars over the years to create a pool of money to provide law enforcement scholarships and grants to soldiers or law enforcement. other law enforcement. officials in need – including those affected by line-of-duty deaths, injuries, fires, illnesses and other personal crises.

Although Mungeer was listed on the organization’s tax filings as Signal 30’s “president” and “principal officer,” that entity has sought to distance itself from the PBA in response to questions about its finances, including revenue earned from the launch of “badges” and ID cards for trustees who contribute thousands of dollars a year to the organization.

A Times Union review of Signal 30’s financial records shows that Mungeer filed multiple expense claims with Signal 30 last year for various charitable causes and fundraising activities.

“The Signal 30 Fund is a legally independent nonprofit organization registered in good standing and in full compliance with all filing and reporting requirements,” the group said in a statement released by the same public relations firm used by PBA. “Signal 30 relies on the generous contributions of credentialed trustees and other supporters, which are documented by Signal 30 staff and make the charity’s good works possible.”

An unsigned letter recently sent to Signal 30 board members, apparently written by three of its directors, said the Times Union had wrongly reported that the PBA president was the “president” of the Signal 30 Fund.

“This is not true,” the letter says. “In fact, the president of APB has no formal position with Signal 30, does not vote and has no ability to act on behalf of the charity. The foundation’s bylaws clearly state that we are governed only by our independent board of directors.”

The group sent the letter even though Mungeer was previously listed on the Signal 30 website on the board of directors as “president.” He also over the years had enormous influence over the group’s decisions about who got grants and how much was distributed, according to interviews with more than a half-dozen former soldiers — including one who was previously a Signal 30 board member.

The Surgeons Group program was created more than a decade ago when board members sought to have a formal relationship with a dozen or more leading physicians around the state who could serve as liaisons or advisors in cases where a military or their family member may need. serious medical care.

But two people familiar with the program said that over the years the “surgeon” program rolled out and now the banners are sold or given to perhaps hundreds or more medical providers each year. While Signal 30 does not sell or distribute billboards, it similarly issues “honorary” badges and identification cards to paying supporters, which in the past have included such notable figures as Donald J. Trump.

One of the former PBA officials interviewed by the Times Union said the broader financial concerns that fueled the unrest within the union include questions about the use of alcohol at its headquarters in Albany, as well as alcohol bills charged to the union during dinner outings. There have been other concerns raised about housing stipends for PBA executives, an apartment in Albany that was paid for from the president’s account and a nearly $80,000 raise given to a lobbyist who is a former military man. and PBA board member.

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