A police officer stands guard at the front of the courtroom where the Monday, Nov. 4 Port Chester Board of Trustees meeting is taking place. RICHARD ABEL|WESTMORE NEWS
A police officer stands guard at the front of the courtroom where the Monday, Nov. 4 Port Chester Board of Trustees meeting is taking place.

In the past two weeks, things have been spiraling out of control for Joseph Krzeminski, the man who has led the Port Chester Police Department for the past 18 years.

Within a matter of days, he was arrested three separate times and faces both state and federal charges.

Due to his clash last Monday, Oct. 28, with John Telesca, the man who was appointed acting chief while Krzeminski is out on sick leave, he has been suspended without pay.

"All of the arrests are stemming from complaints either proffered by John Telesca or at the encouragement of Captain Telesca," said the chief's attorney, Warren J. Roth of White Plains, Tuesday evening. "The two went from being the best of friends for 30 years to now having a very strained relationship."

"It's nonsense," said Krzeminski last week about his alleged assault of Telesca. "We had an argument. I went to his house to talk to him. He pushed me. I pushed him back, and he said he was going to have me arrested for burglary or something stupid."

Since then a warrant went out for his arrest and the ousted chief surrendered himself to the Rye Police Department at about 2:30 Monday afternoon, Nov. 4. He was arraigned on charges of criminal trespass in the 2nd degree, a Class A misdemeanor, and harassment in the 2nd degree, a violation. He is due in court on Friday, Nov. 8, "but it will probably be postponed," said Roth.

After the arraignment, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a federal warrant for Krzeminski's arrest. A two-count complaint charges Krzeminski with tampering with, and retaliating against, a witness in a federal investigation being conducted by the FBI.

The complaint states the FBI has been conducting an investigation since early September into allegations surrounding the disappearance of more than $26,000 in cash and narcotics from an evidence room at the Port Chester Police Department and other allegations of theft and misconduct.

The complaint further alleges that Krzeminski physically threatened and retaliated against Telesca, who has been cooperating with the FBI in its investigation.

Krzeminski was arrested Monday afternoon and appeared in federal court in White Plains before United States Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith. After posting a $100,000 personal recognizance bond, he was released to the custody of one of his three sons.

If convicted, the 62-year-old faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the two counts.

Due to an unexplained illness that involved short-term memory loss, a seizure and required extensive testing to diagnose, Krzeminski has been out of the office on medical leave since Aug. 30. On Sept. 5, Captain John Telesca was appointed acting police chief, filling in until Krzeminski was fit to return to work.

In appointing Telesca as acting chief, shortly after the FBI investigation began, the village board directed Krzeminski "not to exercise any of the authority, responsibilities and duties associated with being the Chief of Police" until he was authorized to return to duty.

According to the FBI complaint, after assuming his duties, Telesca provided information to the Bureau relating to possible violations of federal law.

The federal complaint states that on Oct. 28, Krzeminski forced his way inside Telesca's house and shouted that he was a "rat" and a "rat bastard."

"Who do you think you are telling these people what's going on?" Krzeminski said to him, according to the complaint filed by Special Agent Michael Mazzucca.

Krzeminski also said he would fire the acting chief when he returned to duty. During this encounter, states the complaint, Krzeminski put his hand on the acting chief's shoulders near his neck. At another point, the chief "made a fist and cocked his arm as if he intended to strike the acting chief."

On the same day, Krzeminski called the Port Chester Police Department and told a supervisory officer that "if Telesca doesn't think I'm coming back, he's dreaming," and "the first thing I'm gonna do is retaliate against him," explaining that when he returned to work he would immediately place Telesca on unpaid leave.

According to the complaint, Krzeminski reported the missing cash to the FBI as directed by the village manager but didn't report other thefts from the PCPD earlier in 2013.

It further states that Telesca provided the FBI with a folder he found in Krzeminski's office that contained confidential information about a particular corruption investigation and that around Oct. 24, Krzeminski called Telesca and asked that the folder be returned to him. Telesca refused.

First arrest at Village Hall

The suspended chief's first arrest came late in the afternoon on Oct. 31 when he forced his way into the conference room at Village Hall as the Port Chester Board of Trustees was about to go into a 5 p. m. closed-door meeting and refused to leave. After he was told that he would be arrested if he didn't leave the executive session, he became belligerent.

"Let me tell you what this scumbag did to me," Krzeminski stated to the village board members in attendance, according to the FBI complaint.

Village Manager Christopher Steers said he ordered him to leave the room and Krzeminski responded that Steers had no authority over him. Then the mayor ordered him to leave and Krzeminski said he would have to arrest him for him to go.

Besides Telesca, another officer was present in the room for the meeting and others were called as backup, said Steers.

Krzeminski was eventually handcuffed and removed.

He was charged with obstruction of governmental administration, a Class A misdemeanor, resisting arrest, a Class A misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct, a violation. He is due in village court Friday, Nov. 8.

When he was arraigned in Port Chester court on Oct. 31, the judge ordered Krzeminski to stay away from and refrain from any communication with the acting chief and his wife.

"It was a hairy situation," said Steers. "There was a lot of tension in the room. He was red-faced; his voice was shaking; he was argumentative."

Asked if there were any racial slurs uttered, Steers said: "He denied he ever called me a f---ing n-----."

On Oct. 24, Krzeminski filed a complaint under the village's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy against Steers, who was given authority over the police department by the village board when Telesca became acting chief. The chief was upset that his firearms and car were taken away, his village e-mail was disabled and other directives the manager issued.

"It's baseless, retaliatory and racially motivated," responded Steers about the complaint.

Steers has since filed his own complaint under the antidiscrimination and anti-harassment policy and the workplace violence policy but as of press time had chosen not to make its contents public.

Chief denies wrongdoing

"I met with the chief less than two hours ago," Roth, his attorney, said about 5 p. m. Tuesday, "and he vehemently denied any wrongdoing that's alleged in any of these charges including the witness tampering. Chief Krzeminski is the one who called for the FBI to come to Port Chester. He is hardly tampering with an investigation he asked for and fully supports."

Roth said Krzeminski is cooperating with the FBI and the federal court system.

"Hopefully things are going to get better," he said. "The village board up until all this happened has been in discussions trying to reach a resolution with the chief. The chief had a medical condition and wants to see about retiring-until this confrontation with Telesca, who is exercising his rights with the justice system.

"His way of dealing with the chief is to keep having him arrested," said Roth.

Telesca refused to discuss the federal complaint or any matter that is still in court.

"The chief has been asking the village board for an opportunity to meet with them in executive session to discuss what is in the best mutual interest of the village," said Roth. "He has not been accused of any wrongdoing except trying to meet with the village board and having an argument with his subordinate, Captain Telesca."

Telesca did say he was "saddened, upset and I wish none of this ever had to happen."

"Between myself, our labor attorney and our village attorney, we have been doing everything we possibly can to respect a man who has served this community for over 30 years, who was a friend to most of us, and to make it a less adversarial situation," responded Steers. "However, the seriousness of his actions have dictated the responses to date. At the end of the day I believe we all hope for a more amicable resolution to the situation. We owe it to ourselves and to the community, but the ball is in his court."

Support for the chief and the manager

At the Monday, Nov. 4 village board meeting, Port Chester senior activist Bea Conetta and a few trustees offered their support for Krzeminski.

"I feel that this man is being persecuted," said Conetta. "I think he hasn't even been given a chance to defend himself."

"I know Joe Krzeminski as being a good guy," said Trustee Sam Terenzi. "He's going through a rough time. Joe is a Port Chester guy and we're going to back him as much as we can.

"The case is not over by any matter," he added. "The story is not finished yet. I think it's going to work out for the best."

"We look like the bad guys," said Trustee Luis Marino. "Everybody is trying to blame us. I'm with him (Krzeminski) and the whole board is with him. We're not here to screw anybody. Hopefully we can work it out as soon as possible."

At Monday's meeting the village board also lent their support to Steers by giving him a $10,000 merit raise after his first year as village manager, in part for accepting the additional responsibility of managing the police department which previously was done by the Board of Trustees in their capacity as the Board of Police Commissioners.