PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Jeffrey Jones and three administrators in his inner circle will be returning the overtime checks they received for time spent responding to the historic flooding caused by Hurrican Irene, city officials said.
"This is great news,'' said Council President Anthony Davis.
In an interview on Saturday, Jones blamed the situation on employees in the Office of EWmergency Management filling out overtime paperwork without putting the requisition through his office.
"I was surprised by this right from the beginning,'' the mayor said of his $6,144.
"We're going to have to put some checks and balances in place,'' Jones said. "We going to make sure the process is clear and clean to make sure something like this can't happen again.''
“I’m totally against this,’’ said Davis, who spent numerous hours working on the disaster relief. “We’re elected officials, we don’t get extra money. If someone gave me a check, I’d give it back to the community. I don’t want a check, especially at this time when we have so many people who lost everything.’’
Davis said he plans on pushing for a full-scale investigation into the city’s overtime payments to salaries employees, including the mayor. Davis said he was upset with the city’s financial staff for not alerting the city council to the overtime checks that went out this week.
“I can’t believe it,’’ Davis said. “It doesn’t look good, not when we have so many people out there asking for assistance.’’
Councilman Andre Sayegh said elected officials are supposed to respond to local tragedies without getting extra compensation. “There are thousands of families in Paterson that could use the money,’’ Sayegh said. “As a former 1st Ward councilman, Mayor Jones should give the money to a 1st Ward family.’’
Jones’ check was one of 602 that Paterson issued this past week to police officers, firefighters and other city employees, according to the northjersey.com story said. Also collecting overtime checks were three members of the mayor’s inner circle – Thomas, Chief of Staff Charles Pettiford, and Technology Director Kenneth Sumter – according to the story. Their checks were smaller than what Jones received.
Jones, whose salary is $119,000, said he had nothing to do with the checks being issued. “I didn’t know it was coming,’’ the mayor said. “I was surprised. I said, ‘A check for what?’’’
Emergency Management Director Glenn Brown did not return a phone message on Friday seeking an explanation on how his office tabulated overtime for the mayor and other department heads. Jones insisted that his department heads deserved to be paid for the work they put in during the historic flooding that hit Paterson.
“I’ve got to compensate them for their time,’’ Jones said. “They spent endless out there.’’
City officials were looking into the possibility of providing department heads with comp time, Jones said. “I’m eligible for comp time as well,’’ the mayor said.
But Davis argued that only hourly employees should be compensated for the flood relief work. Salaried administrators should not be getting overtime for their disaster work, according to the council president.