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Falls police, fire chiefs step down in moves that could hike paychecks

Niagara Falls is looking for new police and fire chiefs, after both incumbents resigned to take demotions that could prove more lucrative.

Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto will step down Dec. 31 and resume his old rank as a patrol captain. Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo quit in November and resumed his former rank as a battalion chief.

After six years in the position, DalPorto said he had personal reasons for not wanting to be the top cop anymore, but he also acknowledged that money played a role in his decision.

The police and fire chiefs have limited opportunities to earn overtime or other pay beyond their base salaries of $110,000 each.

Patrol captains and fire battalion chiefs, on the other hand, find it much easier to earn extra pay.

Thus, even though the base salaries for those positions are about $95,000 a year, according to City Administrator Nicholas A. Melson, the bottom line can be much more lucrative.

"If I told you money wasn't any consideration, I don't think anybody would believe that and I don't think I'd be being honest," DalPorto said. "I've done my duty and I think it's time, for a lot of different reasons. Certainly a big portion of that is to spend more time with my family. Is money a factor? Sure, money is always a factor, but it's not the sole factor."

According to the website, DalPorto's pay for 2017 was $149,834, but 16 officers made more, topped by Capt. Kelly J. Rizzo, chief of detectives, who was paid $210,744.

"If it was solely about money, I would have gone back (to being a captain) years ago," DalPorto said.

On the fire side, Colangelo's total pay last year was $117,945. He did not return calls seeking comment on his departure, but Melson said personal reasons were involved.

"These guys made personal decisions to step down that I don't think were driven by finances." Melson said.

It's up to Melson to appoint new chiefs, and he said he intends to do so after Jan. 1.

City Council Chairman Andrew P.  Touma said he thinks the city ought to raise the chiefs' base salaries or do something to rein in overtime.

But DalPorto pointed out that the overtime pay is governed by union contracts the Council itself approved, and Touma said he doesn't think the time is right politically or financially for a raise for the chiefs.

Melson said he would favor looking at ways "to make the pay more competitive."

"It should at least be raised to the point where it's more than a subordinate would make," Melson said.

He said the chiefs sign overtime agreements with the city that limit their availability for extra pay.

"Their overtime rate is less than their straight-time rate," Melson said. "It's much subdued compared to what it could be."

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