HUDSON — Former Hudson police commissioner and Village of Chatham police chief Peter Volkmann pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally collecting $92,829 from the village of Chatham and the state pension system.
Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant, was arraigned Thursday on seven complaints filed by the New York State Police following an investigation by the State Comptroller’s Office, Columbia County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Police.
Volkmann pleaded guilty to illegally taking State and Local Retirement System pension funds in the amount of $74,222, and $18,607 from the village of Chatham by falsifying mileage vouchers and other reimbursements.
As a result of his conviction, Volkmann is required to leave public office and pay restitution in the amount of $92,829.
“Instead of upholding the law, Volkmann, the chief law enforcement officer of the village, defrauded the state retirement system and his community,” State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement Thursday. “Taxpayers have the right to expect their public officials, including law enforcement officials, will act with honesty and integrity.”
Volkmann was arraigned on two counts of public corruption, a class C felony; second-degree corrupting the government and second-degree grand larceny, both class C felonies; third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony; offering a false instrument for filing, a class E felony; and official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor.
“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,” Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka said in a statement. “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.”
Volkmann on Thursday waived his right to indictment on all seven charges. He was arraigned in Columbia County Court under Superior Court information, Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty said Thursday.
Volkmann pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree grand larceny and official misconduct.
“He knowingly and unlawfully engaged in different acts or omissions in order to conceal his income from numerous New York state municipalities in order to keep the payments he was receiving under the limit of $30,000 so that way he could continue to collect his pension while at the same time being paid by other municipalities,” Carty said.
Volkmann was “double dipping” the state pension system, DiNapoli’s office said.
“As a result of acts of omissions, Mr. Volkmann was able to steal $74,222 from the New York state pension system,” Carty said.
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, according to DiNapoli.
In addition to paying restitution for the full amount of $92,829 prior to his sentencing, Volkmann’s guilty plea means he immediately forfeits his position as chief of police in the Village of Chatham.
“This plea therefore effectively terminates Mr. Volkmann’s tenure as an officer and as chief of police,” said Chatham Mayor John Howe.
During a routine village review around February 2020, possible financial irregularities came to light involving Volkmann, Howe said.
“Investigative authorities were notified, which led to their discovery of additional issues, which were largely outside of village affairs, particularly in relation to the New York State Retirement system,” Howe said.
Volkmann had been placed on administrative leave from the Chatham Police Department last September after the village was served with a search warrant related to the investigation. Volkmann was suspended from all of his duties at that time.
Howe said the village was able to continue to operate successfully without interruption.
Deputy Chief of Police Joe Alessi has been overseeing the department, Howe said.
Chatham resident Linda Paul recalled the work Volkmann did with local youngsters. Volkman spearheaded the Chatham Cares 4U program, which connects and transports individuals with substance-abuse addictions to treatment centers.
“I’m disappointed. I knew him for doing good deeds like letting kids with drug problems, if they turned their drugs in, then they didn’t get charged and stuff like that,” Paul said. “There was nice things about him, but I’m disappointed he’s being charged with whatever they call it — taking other people’s money.”
Chatham resident Mike Wollowitz also remembered some of the good work Volkmann did with the police department.
“I was on the Chatham Village Board. It’s very disappointing to hear about it. I don’t really know the story,” Wollowitz said. “He did some great work. We thought it was important what he was doing, trying to change how the police worked and doing the program to help the drug addicts. So I don’t really know what any of this is about. It’s sad.”
Chatham resident David Silliman said he has known Volkmann for years.
“I’ve known Peter ever since he became a member of the Chatham Police Department and I’ve never had any problem with him. He’s a nice guy,” Silliman said. “He had his own way of doing things a lot of people didn’t agree with, I suppose. Then all this happened and he was relieved of his duties — paid leave — I didn’t understand it but now I guess it all came out. I’m sorry it happened but I don’t hold any animosity toward him.”
Volkmann also resigned from his position as police commissioner in Hudson on Sept. 19. He was replaced by current commissioner Shane C. Bower, who declined to comment on the matter. Volkmann was appointed commissioner by Mayor Kamal Johnson in December 2019.
“I don’t really know too much about his case,” Johnson said Thursday. “I think it’s unfortunate and I wish him the best. I’m not one to kick anyone when they’re down.”
Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said the incident should not reflect on the work of the Hudson Police Department.
“It’s very startling, and should not be a reflection on this department,” Moore said Thursday.