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City Council Negotiating New Retirement Deal For Police Chief

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PATERSON, NJ – For the second time in a year, Police Chief James Wittig is negotiating his retirement with city officials.

Last December, the city council rejected a package that would have provided Wittig more than $300,000 in back pay and reimbursement for unused sick and vacation time.

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Since then, Wittig has received a portion of the back pay and has taken many of the sick and vacation days he has accumulated, city council members said.

“We’re talking about a more reasonable package now,’’ said Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee.

“It’s going to be a win for us and a win for him,’’ said City Council President Anthony Morris. “We’re happy and he’s happy.’’

Officials said they are still putting together details of Wittig’s proposed retirement package, which was discussed in closed session at the September 20 city council meeting.

“We’ve asked for a cost-benefit analysis,’’ said Councilman Andre Sayegh. “We don’t have anything concrete yet.’’

Wittig’s impending retirement seems almost inevitable this time. The chief will turn 65 in February, the mandatory police retirement date under state law. Before his recent meeting with the city council, Wittig joked that he might stick around longer if the law were changed. The chief did not a return a phone message on Friday seeking his input on the negotiations.

Almost three weeks ago, PatersonPress.com asked city officials to provide information on how many unused sick and vacation days Wittig still has. A year ago, he had more than $150,000 worth of unused days coming to him. Council members interviewed late last week said they were not sure exactly how much in back pay Wittig has received in the past year.

Wittig began serving as chief in 2006, but did not get a pay increase. Part of the proposed package that was voted down by the city council last December would have provided him more than $190,000 in back pay.

Mayor Jeffrey Jones said he was not involved in the city council’s negotiations with Wittig. Jones criticized the council, saying the chief has been able to accrue more benefits because of the delay when the council refused to approve his retirement last year.

“They did what they thought they needed to do, but I’m puzzled by it,’’ Jones said.

When Wittig retires, his successor will be picked from among Paterson’s three deputy police chiefs – Robert Drace, William Freyer and Danny Nichols – under the guidelines of state law, officials said. 

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