Officials: NY village won't terminate indicted cop who stole from fire dept.

Officer Randy Stith is accused of stealing more than $6,500 from the fire department when he was treasurer from February 2015 to January 2018

By Stefanie Dazio

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan said the village has decided against terminating Officer Randy Stith, who was arrested last month on charges he stole thousands of dollars from the fire department and falsified a document to become a police officer.

McGowan, who recommended terminating Stith, said the board of trustees met Monday and he recused himself from the meeting because he might be a witness for the prosecution.

McGowan said Tuesday that after consulting with legal counsel and his executive staff, he recommended that “probationary officer Stith be terminated.”

Stith will remain on administrative paid leave, McGowan said.

“I made my professional recommendation, they made their professional decision,” McGowan said.

Joseph Conway, Stith’s attorney, said in a statement Tuesday, “Mr. Stith is pleased that the board has decided to uphold our long standing constitutional right to due process and the presumption of innocence.”

Village officials did not comment Tuesday morning.

Prosecutors alleged in a 13-count indictment announced April 25 that Stith, 27, had falsified a document to become a police officer and stole thousands of dollars from the Hempstead Fire Department when he was a volunteer firefighter.

The arrest of Stith, 27, who also is a Hempstead school board member, was the result of “several schemes” that involved a “betrayal of trust to the people of Nassau County,” prosecutor Lisa Berk said at his arraignment at State Supreme Court in Mineola, where he pleaded not guilty.

Stith is accused of stealing more than $6,500 from the fire department’s Southside Hose 2, when he was treasurer, from February 2015 to January 2018. He was sworn in as a Hempstead Village police officer in June 2017.

Stith has been on administrative leave since his arrest.

Prosecutors alleged the Nassau County Civil Service Commission initially denied Stith’s application to be a police officer in February 2015 — “on grounds unrelated to this investigation” — but reconsidered him after he filed a forged recommendation letter in April 2015 “purporting to be signed by another member” of his fire company.

McGowan also said Tuesday that he, Assistant Chief Joseph Sortino and Deputy Chief Mark Matthews submitted their retirement papers to the village and state on Monday.

“I’m not retiring because of the decision of the board” about Stith, McGowan said, noting he’s spent about 40 years at the department. “It’s time for me to spend more time with my family.”

The board had already decided against renewing the contracts of Sortino and Matthews, who hold the Civil Service rank of lieutenant, and planned to interview replacements for the positions. If they had not retired, they would return to lieutenants after their contracts expire on May 31.

McGowan has previously submitted his retirement papers but pulled them back.

In a statement released Tuesday by Hempstead PBA president Christopher Giardino, the union said it “is sad to see the three chiefs retire and wish them the best in retirement. The PBA looks forward to working with whoever is appointed in the coming month and hopes to develop a strong relationship with the new administration.”

The three chief openings will have ripple effects through the rest of the department because three lieutenants will now be promoted, potentially leaving room for three sergeants to be promoted to fill their spots. If that happens, then three police officers could be promoted to sergeant.

The department has faced allegations of racism by Det. Steven Wilson Jr., who filed a state and federal complaint in February alleging he and another black officer, Raquel Spry-Dacres, were passed over for promotion to sergeant.

The civil service list where Wilson and Spry-Dacres had risen to the top expired in November and the new test’s top five scorers are white male officers.

Copyright 2018 Newsday

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