CHATHAM – Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka announced Thursday, February 11, that Peter Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, formerly the chief of the Village of Chatham Police Department, pleaded guilty to grand larceny and official misconduct before County Court Judge Richard Koweek.
The DA stated that the conviction was the result of a two-year investigation that began shortly before State Police executed a search warrant issued by County Court Judge Jonathan Nichols on January 8, 2019.
Mr. Volkmann pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the fourth degree for circumventing the state’s post-retirement income restrictions and cheating the New York State and Local Retirement System out of $74,222, according a press release from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office. Mr. Volkmann hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through a private business, PF Volkmann & Associates.
He also pleaded to official misconduct, a misdemeanor, for stealing $18,607 from the Village of Chatham by falsifying mileage vouchers and other reimbursements to increase his income. Mr. Volkmann will pay a total amount of restitution prior to sentencing in the amount of $92,829 as part of his plea and as a result of his conviction has been removed from office. Judge Koweek will sentence Mr. Volkmann July 19.
DA Czajka stated in a press release from his office that the investigation continues.
The DA prosecuted the case with Deputy Chief ADA Ryan Carty. Albany-based attorney William Dreyer represents the defendant.
“Instead of upholding the law, Volkmann, the chief law enforcement officer of the village, defrauded the state retirement system and his community,” said Comptroller DiNapoli in a release. “Taxpayers have the right to expect their public officials, including law enforcement officials, will act with honesty and integrity. I thank District Attorney Paul Czajka and the New York State Police for their partnership in rooting out public corruption.”
Mr. Volkmann served as a chief of police for the town of Stockport until 2016. He served as unpaid commissioner of the Hudson Police Department from January 2020 until he resigned last September. Mr. Volkmann has been the Village of Chatham part-time police chief since the fall of 2013. In September of 2020, the Village Board placed him on paid administrative leave.
A statement from village Mayor John Howe in September said that putting Mr. Volkmann on paid leave “is related to the status of an ongoing investigation of certain matters by the New York Office of the State Comptroller, the New York State Police and the District Attorney’s Office, in connection with which the Village of Chatham was served with a search warrant on September 17, that encompassed police department computers.” The statement also said that investigators retrieved information but did not seize equipment or property belonging to the village or police department.
In January 2019, State Police and agents of the state Department of Taxation and Finance and the state Comptroller’s Office seized documents and village computers from the clerk’s office. They also searched and seized equipment from the home of a former village treasurer. The Village Board at that time had discovered that the village owed $47,561.90 in back state payroll taxes, though the funds were in village accounts.
“All New York State taxpayers should be grateful for the hard work and diligence of the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, which, together with NYSP BCI (New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation) Livingston, has been responsible for conducting this extremely complex investigation under difficult circumstances,” said DA Czajka, who was quoted in the release about Mr. Volkmann’s plea. “Having worked with this unit innumerable times over many years, it is my humble recommendation to the legislature that it increase its funding. These highly dedicated public servants, by obtaining restitution and providing deterrence, pay for themselves many times over.”
Mr. Czajka praised the work of the investigators of the New York State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations (including Chief Investigator Joseph Fiore, Chief of Forensic Audit Thomas Casaregola, Supervising Forensic Auditor Sara Tillapaugh, Forensic Auditor Ellielynn Hawkins, Forensic Auditor Kathryn Mullikin, Investigator Candace R. Burnham) and New York State Police (including Senior Investigator Eric Barnes and lead investigators Feroze Munim and Mathew Reilly).
“This case serves as a reminder that those who abuse their public position for their own personal benefit, while violating the trust of those they serve, will be brought to justice,” said State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen, in a release. “Public corruption will not be tolerated in any form.”