HOBOKEN, NJ – As reported last week, the Bhalla Administration and certain members of the City Council are at odds over renewing the contract for Hoboken Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante. While the Council and the Mayor continue to lob pointed statements back and forth at each other, the Chief is left to weigh his own options as he watches it all unfold.
Ferrante took the reins in 2014, has been working without an agreement since December 31, and is seeking renewal through 2022. Bhalla is fully on board with the extension. Among those scrutinizing the contract is 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who had previously stated she supports Ferrante but has issues with the length of the contract given the current budget crisis in City Hall.
On Monday, the Mayor sent a letter to all nine members of the City Council, imploring them to vote in favor the Chief’s contract extension.
“Through his six years as Police Chief, Chief Ferrante has distinguished himself as, in my opinion, one of, if not the, best Chiefs in the entire tri-state area,” said Bhalla. “He has been our crucial partner in keeping our City safe, and even more so now during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, during which he had been on duty for 92/95 days (without overtime, for which he is ineligible for). His record since he became Chief in 2014 speaks for itself.”
Bhalla’s letter cites statistics and initiatives under Ferrante’s supervision, including a reduction in crime across the board, implementation of “use of force” policies, creation of a waterfront and parks unit upon becoming Chief, to better patrol and keep public spaces safe during all hours Vision Zero efforts, COVID response, OEM streamlining, modernization of the investigations bureau—as well as a demonstrated work ethic and transparency.
“Quite simply, given this record, it would be a major blow to the City should his contract not be renewed, which would force him to decide whether to continue in his position without the security of a contract, or retire with a full pension, as is a very realistic option available to him,” said Bhalla. “Despite having the ability to comfortably retire, he wishes to remain in his position because of his passion for his profession and love for the city in which he was born and raised. With this contract, Chief Ferrante would also continue to be paid less than six other Hudson County Police Chiefs.”
Bhalla’s letter went on to engage the Council’s hesitation.
“Certain Councilmembers stated that the proposed contract should terminate at the conclusion of the term of the Mayor in 2021, which would reflect a two-year contract instead of three. I strongly reject the proposal that law enforcement should have any connection with politics or elections.”
In a first draft, which was also sent to members of the media, Bhalla claims, “This argument unnecessarily politicizes the Chief’s contract and ignores the fact that the City Council approved the current Fire Chief’s contract (which by contrast is currently $60,000 greater on an annual basis than the proposed contract for Chief Ferrante) that lasts until 2023 - two years after the next Mayoral election.”
That statement was altered in a follow-up version, which read, “This argument unnecessarily politicizes the Chief’s contract, ignores the fact that the City Council approved the current Fire Chief’s contract that lasts until 2023, two years after the next Mayoral election and, by contrast, provides $60,000 annually less than current Fire Battalion Chiefs.”
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who was named in the Mayor’s letter, told TAPinto Hoboken, “I remain supportive of Chief Ferrante staying in Hoboken as long as possible. But once again [Hoboken City Spokesman] Vijay Chaudhuri lies and/or palters in an official statement made on behalf of the Mayor. First saying Chief Ferrante makes $60k less than Fire Chief Crimmins, which is not true.” She adds, “When caught, changes to say 60k less than ‘Fire Battalion Chiefs.’ I’m not even sure what that means but I’d place a bet that it’s not true. If this is an issue for the mayor, why didn’t he propose a higher salary for Chief Ferrante—who we now understand is paid less than his Hudson County peers?”
UPDATE: Chaudhuri responds to Fisher's query: "According to payroll records in 2019, five of the seven Hoboken Fire Battalion Chiefs made over $260,000 in compensation, with the top Fire Battalion Chief earning over $295,000."
UPDATE: Fisher says, "2019 pay for Battalion Chiefs cited by Vijay included retroactive pay for 5 years including longevity payments and also overtime. Apples to oranges and just more paltering by the city’s communication director."
Sitting on the sidelines, watching all this with considerable personal interest is Chief Ferrante.
He tells TAPinto Hoboken, “I eagerly await to see what this Wednesday’s City Council meeting brings. I have several plans ready for the following day based on how that meeting goes. No matter where the Mayor, his Directors, and the nine council members have stood politically, everyone has been treated with the same respect and professionalism by me, because I love the City of Hoboken, the Hoboken Police Department and my job! That being said, I am prepared to deal with whatever comes Wednesday night.”
The next Hoboken City Council Meeting is Wednesday, July 29.
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