WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange Police Chief James Abbott will be taking an unofficial leave of absence to take the helm at the Department of Public Works as the new "Director of Staff Operations," a position approved at the March 25 Township Council meeting. The council voted, 4-1, in favor of the the ordinance, with Councilman Krakoviak voting no.
Mayor Robert Parisi, who was in attendance at the council meeting, explained the rationale for the decision to create the new position under Second Ordinance Reading 2402-14, Adopting Chapter 2, Section 5 "Creating Position of Director of Staff Operations."
Parisi explained that the decision resulted from several years of attrition in the DPW. Leonard Lepore, the township's municipal engineer, has been serving as the director of Public Work. The retirement of Glenn McCarthy in January, who had served as superintendent of Public Works, left the DPW with a need for "strong leadership to deal with human resources," said Parisi.
Chief Abbott will "take a leave of absence, at least in the short term" to become the Director of Staff Operations and take the helm at the DPW.
"We advertised for the position," continued Parisi, "and Chief Abbott has demonstrated he is a strong manager. His skills are transferable from the Police Department to the DPW." Abbott will "work under the direction and supervision of the Mayor and Business Administrator," according to the ordinance. The broader strokes of the position will include supervision of township departments on efficiency and operations improvements.
Abbott will continue to draw his salary as Police Chief. Should Abbott retire as chief, it is unclear at this time as to whether he will continue as Director of Staff Operations, and if he does, if that will require an ordinance for compensation considerations.
Said Abbott, “I look forward to working alongside Mr. Lepore and the men and women of the Public Works department, and I am confident that my role as chief of the police department has prepared me well for this position,” Abbott said. “It gives me great pride to continue to serve the Township in this capacity and I am excited about this new challenge.”
Dovetailing Ordinance 2402-14 was Ordinance 2403-14, "Department Generally; Table of Organization" which "intends to foster and further promote the organizational and operational flexibility of the Township’s Police Department (the “Police Department”), and to provide for increased oversight regarding the Police Department’s day-to-day operations."
The Ordinance called for a reorganization of the WOPD, presenting the addition of a second deputy chief. Recently WOPD Captain Mike Corcoran was promoted to Deputy Chief, and with Abbott's unofficial leave of absence, Corcoran will assume more responsibility in the department. An additional deputy chief position, along with 4 Captains, 11 Lieutenants, 21 Sergeants, and 81 Patrolmen, will compose the department.
According to Mayor Parisi, there were 5 Deputy Chiefs in the 1990s. As for potential shifts in salaries, Parisi noted that the budget has been presented with no increase. If/when Abbott returns to the WOPD, demotions may be possible.
The vote for Ordinance 2403-14 was 4-1 in favor of the ordinance, with Councilman Krakoviak voting no.