PATERSON, N.J.- Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is demanded by Paterson council to explain police comp time payouts.
Eight police officers were paid $131,470 for compensatory time by the city. The checks issued on January 1st, 2017 ranged from $7,619 to $23,421, according to documents provided to council members.
Tuesday night, City council members requested an explanation from both Mayor Torres and his administration for thousands of dollars in compensation time payouts issued to police officers during this month's first pay period.
Council president William McKoy asked, “Do we have any documents to substantiate the claim these were authorized hours of work?” McKoy stated the pay outs were “highly unusual” and demanded an explanation from the administration. “I’ve not seen this before and I’ve been sitting here for 16 years,” said McKoy.
As the council president and members continued with demanding a thorough explanation from the administration, the mayor walked into the council chamber.
Torres said the amounts were overtime pay for the officers. McKoy, unwilling to take the mayor’s word, requested documentation to verify the amounts with records.
Torres said: “You’re going to have to entrust those whom you put into authority.” Torres, willing to provide the documentation, stated the police contract allows officers the option to take comp time or overtime.
The officers are capped to 480 hours of comp times, said Torres. An officer usually collects comp hours through the course of his or her career ,and then prior to retirement will cash them out.
The mayor said officers worked overtime on shootings and murders over the past year. He said the officers were offered comp time in place of overtime to investigate shootings and murders last year.
Torres also stated during last year when the council and administration butted heads over the municipal budget, comp hours were accrued by officers .
“They incurred the overtime when the council did not want to approve the budget. We didn't’t have money to demand the officers work for their overtime, they worked their comp time,” said Torres. “These are not additional tax dollars.”
Some hours from the payments were issued go back a decade or so, said council members. The council president questioned how the comp time could go back to last year when some of the hours go back 10 years.
Councilman Kenneth Morris stated “Those hours incurred over the cap should be taken as time off.” He requested the administration to put into place procedures to prevent officers from exceeding the 480 hours. He suggested punishing those officers whom exceed the cap.
Without detail, Torres said there are check and balances in place.
The city issued $150,181 in manual checks to 25 employees. Some of the checks were to change pay rates, correct missed hours, and issue late retroactive payments, according to officials.
The checks have already been issued, said officials. The officers to receive comp time payouts were Antonio Blasucci, $10,442; Paul Miccinilli, $22,948; captain Patrick Murray, $14,963; deputy chief Troy Oswald, $21,591; lieutenant Ivette Otero, $23,421; lieutenant Glenn Browining, $20,458; Rory Buchanan, $7,619; and sergeant Anthony Hyatt, $10,028.
Although the council demanded explanations from the administration, the council president stated, “I don’t expect anyone to work for free. If you work you should be paid.”
However the council president is waiting on the documentation from the mayor to substantiate the hours.