ELIZABETH, NJ - Due to a settlement not being reached by the court's deadline of July 30, Police Chief Mike Mathis' reinstatement lies in the hands of Judge Mark Ciarrocca, who is expected to rule today.
Mathis, a 29-year veteran to the Berkeley Heights Police Department, filed suit against Mayor Joe Bruno and the Township of Berkeley Heights on July 3, seeking to stop his removal as chief.
In court yesterday, Vito Gagliardi, the attorney representing Mathis, argued to Judge Ciarrocca that the facts need to be separated out from political interference. He was referring to actions occurring after Mathis originally announced his intent to retire. He concluded that the mayor used personal actions, not political, due to being upset with the acts.
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Gagliardi argued that Mathis had disputes with the administration preceding his decision to retire. "It was a long standing series of policy debates involving ordinances regarding the police department as well as the compensation of the chief." Referring to the police department being understaffed by two officers and Mathis' salary as chief was $1 more than a captain.
Gagliardi said filing and withdrawing retirement paperwork is a common practice by public employees.
Gagliardi continued to state in his argument - the chief understood that he put his employer on notice of his intention to retirement; but in order to lose his job, it was necessary to submit a letter of resignation and that letter needed to be accepted. There was no letter submitted; therefore, no letter was accepted said Gagliardi. He added, the notice of intention to retire was treated the same as a letter of resignation.
Jim Patterson, the attorney representing the Township and Bruno, argued that Mathis wanted more money and thought he was deprived of raises. He contends that when Mathis didn't get his way, he quit.
Based on the email of June 16 along with the subsequent discussion when the chief used the phrase 'adios a** hole', Patterson said the Mayor had the authority under regulation of ordinances to accept the resignation and move forward with the action of appointing an officer in charge.