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 said 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 January 8, 2019.
Mr. Volkmann pleaded guilty to fourth degree grand larceny for circumventing the state’s post-retirement income restrictions, 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. The Times Union cited authorities who said he “funneled the government payments through his firm from about 2012 to 2019.”
He also pleaded guilty 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.
The DA prosecuted the case with Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty.
Albany-based attorney William Dreyer represents the defendant. Mr. Dreyer could not be reached for comment before this week’s press deadline.
‘As a result of his guilty plea, his position with the village is now terminated.’
Statement from mayor and trustees
Village of Chatham
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 in September. He 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 and the Village Trustees about Mr. Volkmann’s plea says, in part, “During a routine village review, certain possible financial irregularities came to light involving Mr. Volkmann. Investigative authorities were notified, which led to their discovery of additional issues that were largely outside of village affairs, particularly in relation to the New York State Retirement System.”
The statement goes on to say, “In addition to other punishments that may be imposed, to the extent of the impact upon the village in the form of improperly obtained expense reimbursements, Mr. Volkmann is expected to make full restitution payment to the village in the amount of $18,607.”
The village was served with a search warrant on September 17, 2020 that included Police Department computers. The statement from the Village Board that “when the village was served with a search warrant confirming the investigation into Chief Volkmann, he was placed on administrative leave and was suspended from all duties related to the police department and village. Because the specifics of the investigation were confidential to the investigative agencies, the village determined that prior to actual charges being made its most prudent course of action was to suspend Chief Volkmann pending resolution of the investigation. As a result of his guilty plea, his position with the village is now terminated. Throughout this episode, the village has cooperated with the involved investigative entities. The Village Police Department has, at all times and without interruption, continued to operate effectively under its deputy chief, and will continue to do so.”
During his time as Chatham Village police chief, Mr. Volkmann started the Chatham Cares 4U (CC4U) program that helped people with addiction issues find treatment beds and transported them to treatment centers. He received the 2018 Police Assisted and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) Leadership Award for his work with CC4U. In 2018, Chief Volkmann and the CC4U program were part of a Working Strategies meeting on the national opioid crisis at the White House. Mr. Volkmann was the guest of Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-19th) at the State of Union address in 2020. According to a release from the congressman’s office, Mr. Volkmann graduated with a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Mercy College and received his master’s degree in social work from Fordham University.
According to the Times Union, Mr. Volkmann retired from serving as a police officer and emergency medical technician with the town of Ossining Police Department before he came to Columbia County.
Mr. Volkman ran for county sheriff in 2017 but lost to incumbent Sheriff David Bartlett.
“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.
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. That investigation has still not been resolved.
“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 about Mr. Volkmann’s case. “Public corruption will not be tolerated in any form.”