Harrison town officials are pirouetting after a police officer asked the town to pay $2,845 for him to take a dance course at a private college. It appears that the police union contract–previously approved by town officials–requires the town to pay tuition even for courses unrelated to police work.

[See update below.]

Other municipalities and school districts offer tuition reimbursement for their employees–although many require the academic credits be work-related. Some school districts pick up tuition costs–and then pay again, because the additional academic credits move teachers to a higher salary level.

In Harrison, Police Chief Anthony Marraccini objects to paying for Officer William Duffelmeyer to enroll in a course called Principles of Rhythm and Dance at Manhattanville College.

By Marraccini’s count, the town has spent an estimated $25,000 for Dufflelmeyer to take courses unrelated to police work. They include: Individual, Dual and Leisure Sports; Team Sports and Coaching; Math Probabilities and Statistics; Advanced Biophysical Concepts and Kinesiology.

But as the Journal News reports, the police contract does not require such courses to be job related.

Any police officer hired on or before Dec. 20, 2001, is “entitled to attend any course of study at Manhattanville College pursuant to obtaining any associate, bachelor, or graduate level degree at no cost to the member,” the police contract states. Courses taken at another college must be related to criminal justice.

Covering college costs has been a part of the police contract for more than a decade, officials said, and was added to encourage young police officers to get a college degree.

In an editorial, the newspaper asks:

Does Manhattanville–or some other local school–teach a course in Advanced Principles of Collective Bargaining? Indignant Harrison officials might wish to inquire before working themselves up into a lather over municipal workers who take advantage of benefits they fairly bargained for. The devil, it would seem, is in the town’s police contract.

Update: In 2009, Duffelmeyer collected $102,838 in total wages from the Town of Harrison, according to salaries posted on SeeThroughNY.net.

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch, September 20, 2010

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