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Supervisor now on the hot seat

March 9, 1998

Police Officer Jay Creditor made a chump of the police department - specifically of Commissioner Howard Safir, ex-First Deputy Tosano Simonetti and Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Trials Kevin Lubin.

Now it's payback time. Not for Creditor, who retired with a $1.4-million tax-free disability pension and is untouchable. But rather for his former supervisor, Lt. William Stegmaier. The NYPD's cro-magnum reasoning is that had Stegmaier properly supervised Creditor, then Safir, Simo, et. al would have been spared the ignominy they brought upon themsevles by secretly awarding Creditor a sweatheart deal that even his attorney, the patron saint of such rogue cops as Thomas Bruder and Frank Livoti, thought too good to be true.

Creditor, a former Patrolmen's Benevolent Association delegate from the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst, was dismissed a year ago on March 7, a Friday, by Trials Commissioner Rae D. Koshetz for missing 200 hours of work.

"Unless he is fired for this," Koshetz's decision reads, "he will receive a three-quarters disability pension when the Pension Board meets March 12 . . . Not only would it be inapparopriate to pay this 36-year-old man without exacting substantial penalty for his illegal behavior but it would also send the wrong message to other members of the department."

Instead, three days later Lubin wrote Simonetti in a confidential NYPD memoradum that Safir had "reviewed this case and determined it be negotiated."

And so a deal, signed by Simo, Lubin, Creditor and his attorney Stuart London, was cut. And cut at breakneck speed.

The next day, March 11, Creditor paid a fine of $50,000, a sum beyond the means of virtually all cops to be raised at a moment's notice. He was reinstated and as Lubin wrote, "Pursuant to the agreement, Officer Creditor's pension application will be allowed to go before the Pension Board on Mar. 12, 1997."

Creditor received his pension and retired. Because the agreement failed to prohibit it, he then filed a $50-million law suit against the department, claiming his civil rights were violated.

Safir has spent the past year ducking questions and issuing contradictory explanations about the deal. On Dec. 6, he said it wasn't he but Simonetti who reinstated Creditor. On Dec. 11, he said he had played "no role."

But on Dec. 19, when presented with another memo from Simonetti noting Safir's "APPROVAL," he recalled a "recollection" of telling Koshetz to negotiate the case.

But here's the rub. On Friday, March 7, the day of her decision, Safir underwent triple bypass surgery and was flat on his back in the hosptial when the deal was concluded. That's why his signature isn't on it.

If his recollection is accurate, this means he told Koshetz to negotiate before her decision. And that's not how the system works. Offers to negotiate are communicated through the Department Advocate's office to the officer's attorney. But the Advocate's office was never consulted. In fact, department lawyers were outraged that Safir, Simo and Lubin had blind-sided them.

Now here's London's version. "I got a call Friday night March 7 about 6 p.m. from Lubin saying an offer was on the table. I was shocked. He said, For $50,000, your client can get a three-quarters pension.' I thought he was kidding. I thought it was a joke. Something happened between the time of Koshetz' decision and that phone call."

Fast-forward to last Tuesday. In the first deputy's conference room sat Lt. Stegmaier, a pinched, balding 17-year veteran, who was Creditor's former supervisor. Stegmaier testified that Creditor often didn't show up for his tour. He took four days off, claiming his grandfather had died in Florida but never produced documentation. Three times, sergeants warned Stegmaier Creditor was faking it.

In his defense, Stegmaier explained he had returned to college, attended school two nights a week, was involved in a stressful relationship with a woman and had begun to drink. "I started seeing a psychiatrist." He corrected himself, "a psychologist."

"I paid for it myself. I never told the department. I was embarrassed . . . The officer played me for a fool . . . I have been modified since December, 1996.

"I am still a desk officer," Stegmaier concluded, his voice breaking, "but my gun and my shield were taken. I sit at a desk in uniform, with no shield, with no gun."

Although he pleaded guilty, in effect throwing himself on the mercy of Trial Commissioner Ellen K. Schwartz, the department wasn't moved. Unlike with Creditor, it wants to take away Stegmaier's pension. With Lubin sitting behind him, Department Advocate Lt. John Gorman stated: "The advocate's office requests termination."

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© 1998 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.