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No Progress Yet on Overtime Repayments; Officials Blame Sandy

Scene from last year's overtime hearings

 

PATERSON, NJ – Paterson Business Administrator Charles Thomas has not yet provided the City Council with information about overtime payments made to high-ranking municipal officials that was due two weeks ago.

Under an October 23 City Council resolution designed to force Paterson officials to repay what the state has deemed as inappropriate overtime, Thomas had five business days to provide the council with the names of senior staff members who received overtime since July 1, 2010 and how much they got.

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Thomas could not be reached for comment on the situation, but Mayor Jeffrey Jones blamed the delay on the crisis created by the super-storm that hit the area. “The reason is Sandy,’’ said Jones. “No one is going out of their way to have any unnecessary battles.’’

But Jones also said he still questions the legal basis on which the council is seeking to demand the repayments, pointing out that no one from the city’s law department signed off on the resolution. Jones also continued to question the assertions by the council and the state that the overtime paid to city managers was inappropriate.

“I can’t find any law or statute that says overtime is forbidden for managers,’’ said Jones.

Councilman Kenneth Morris said he would give Thomas some extra time to provide the overtime information considering the problems caused by Sandy. But Morris said he was not planning to allow the money to go unpaid. He said he was considering several options if the administration does not comply with the resolution requiring the repayments.

“If this administration was as tenacious in doing things right as they are in doing things wrong, we’d be in much better shape,’’ said Morris.

 At stake is more than $28,000 in overtime that top-ranking city officials received over the past two years, which has been deemed improper by both the state and the city council.  Jones and his Cabinet members already have repaid the overtime they received stemming from last year’s historic floods.

But the state and city council also have called for Jones’ staff to repay non-flood-related overtime that they received. In fact, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs said it would reduce Paterson’s Transition Aid allotment, which was $21 million last year, by the amount of unpaid overtime.

Exactly how much overtime is at stake is unclear. A state report issued last December identified about $28,000 in non-flood overtime that city managers had gotten between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011: $7,440 to Thomas, $11,549 to then-personnel director Betty Taylor, $7,786 to Public Works Director Christopher Coke, and $1,572 to Health and Human Services Director Donna Nelson-Ivy.

The report also identified more than $55,000 in improper overtime – most of it involving the flood - paid to city managers between July 1, 2011 and December 15, 2011. That figure included several thousand dollars in non-flood overtime paid to Thomas, Taylor and perhaps others.

Moreover, the state report also said Budget Director Russell Forenza had been getting improper overtime for two decades, but it did not quantify the amount or mandate its repayment. Morris has said Forenza could be among those the council seeks to recoup payment from, but that the reimbursement would only cover the time period back to July 2010.

 

 

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