Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat, will increase scrutiny on hiring police chaplains after a federal probe into corruption.
An executive order signed last week will require chaplains to be active clergy members and also live in Westchester County comes as a response to a federal probe into whether or not former County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, offered up a chaplain position in exchange for campaign contributions.
Last year, Westchester County police chaplains Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz were suspended after a probe called into question campaign contributions to Astorino’s re-election campaign; specifically, a $15,000 contribution made in the same month that Reichberg was appointed chaplain.
Neither of the two chaplains in question was a priest or a rabbi.
Under a recently signed executive order, all requests to become a chaplain would go before the commissioner of Public Safety. Additionally, the order mandates that a list be provided to the county executive and Board of Legislators of all the chaplains twice a year—once in July and once in January.
Rechnitz’s donations in particular came under scrutiny during an especially scathing campaign last year between Latimer and Astorino when the former chaplain testified that he had helped Astorino procure a used Rolex watch in Manhattan’s Diamond District.
Despite Astorino’s attempts to rebut claims from Rechnitz, claiming he lied about the event, Latimer would go on to readily defeat the incumbent with the aid of increased Democratic voter turnout countywide.
-reporting by James Pero