Former Cooperstown Police Chief Mike Covert, who battled several health issues, has died, members of the Cooperstown Police Department confirmed Monday, March 2.
Though Officer David Kaminski said he didn’t know Covert very well, he said he knew of his influence in the police department.
Covert, 59, had also previously served as an Otsego County Sheriff’s Office corrections officer, deputy sheriff and investigator; Hartwick Volunteer Fire Department member and U.S. Army combat engineer.
“Mike and I worked together over the years so we had quite a history together,” Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said. “He was not only a coworker, but a friend. It was sad to see it come down to this. He had a distinguished law enforcement career and touched many lives.”
Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said she ran into the former police chief about seven months ago and thought he was looking better. Covert told The Daily Star in 2019 that he took an unpaid medical leave of absence in August 2018 to deal with several health issues, including heart surgery and kidney failure, and then had a heart attack. He was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant at Albany Medical Center in March 2019.
“I’m very sad to hear this,” Tillapaugh said. “I was just very hopeful that everything would work out for him.”
Tillapaugh praised Covert’s community policing efforts, noting his establishment of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Institute, which focuses on treatment rather than arrest of those with substance abuse issues. Covert was also a county Drug Abuse Resistance Education program officer, she said.
“He was responsive to community needs. He was one of the earlier voices in the need to address, in kind of a human way, addiction issues,” Tillapaugh said. “I think that was representative of his heart. He really did have a kind heart and was trying to help people.”
Tillapaugh also spoke of Covert’s professionalism and community presence. The former police chief made it a point to go to businesses on Cooperstown’s Main Street and introduce himself, she said.
“He had many strengths as a community police officer,” Tillapaugh said.
Covert served as Cooperstown’s police chief from 2012 until his unpaid medical leave of absence in August 2018. He had been receiving health insurance coverage through Otsego County until the county terminated it in early 2019, according to a GoFundMe set up by former county sheriff’s office partner Michael Ten Eyck.
Since he was on a medical leave of absence at that time, he was ineligible for village health insurance, according to a village media release from shortly after the county withdrew his coverage. Covert had stated he was receiving other insurance coverage, according to the release.
Covert told The Daily Star in March 2019 that the village, under the guise of medical leave, had terminated him. Tillapaugh said she didn’t know why the county withdrew Covert’s benefits and that the village didn’t terminate him.
According to previous Daily Star reporting, Covert’s insurance was withdrawn because the sheriff’s department discovered language in a contract with the police union stating that retirement coverage only extended to those who’d been in the department for 25 years. Covert had served about 18 years with the county and had two stints in Cooperstown totaling about 12 years.
“It’s not only Mike it affected, it affects other sheriff’s office employees so it would be nice to get the situation resolved to it doesn’t happen again to anyone,” Devlin said.
Devlin said he expects the issue will be addressed when deputies sit down with the county later this year to negotiate benefits and wages.