PATERSON, NJ – Business administrator Charles Thomas rang up more than 131 hours of apparent overtime on days he attended City Council meetings from April through September, according to municipal time sheets.
At Thomas’ $114,000 salary, that overtime would produce almost $11,000 in extra pay. Those payments amount to more than 70 percent of the overtime Thomas has collected this year, not counting the check for flood relief overtime that he had to give back.
State officials say city managers should not receive overtime for attending council meetings.
The hours for the city council meetings were revealed in 134 pages of Thomas’ daily municipal sign-in sheets, which PatersonPress.com obtained through an Open Public Records Act request seeking his overtime requisitions form.
PatersonPress.com requested those documents after reporting on October 3 that city payroll records showed Thomas had received $23,767 in gross overtime during the first nine months of this year. That figure included the roughly $9,000 in gross overtime payments he had received for the flood.
The city’s flood overtime scandal, which included a $6,144 check issued to Mayor Jeffrey Jones, prompted the director of New Jersey’s Division of Local Government Services, Thomas Neff, to send Paterson officials a letter saying that, “Overtime should not be paid to elected officials and managers whose basic job titles and responsibilities obviously require irregular work schedules.’’
Neff’s agency has been conducting an investigation of the city’s payroll practices, including overtime payments. The City Council also is conducting an inquiry on the overtime.
“This gives us even more reason to investigate,’’ said Councilman Andre Sayegh, when asked about Thomas’ time sheets. “We deserve to know all the facts as does the public. I’m not going to render judgment just yet, but I’m even more eager to get started.’’
“In the past, when administrators would cover city council meetings which typically run about five hours, they would come in late the following day,” said Councilman Kenneth Morris. “But they would not be compensated for it with cash.’’
Morris said the flood overtime controversy opened “a virtual Pandora’s Box.’’ He said, “This has put the city’s whole overtime situation under a microscope, and it’s not rose-colored, either.’’
Thomas did not respond to a phone message seeking his comments for this story. He already has retained prominent Passaic County criminal defense attorney Miles Feinstein to represent him regarding the overtime inquiries. “He denies any wrongdoing and any intent to do wrong,’’ said Feinstein.
The sign-in sheets that Paterson provided in response to the OPRA request do not specify which hours are overtime and which hours are for regular time. But they do provide a day-by-day log of when he started and finished work. PatersonPress’ analysis of those time sheets calculated Thomas’ overtime hours based on a regular eight-hour day and a half hour for lunch.
The city only provided Thomas’ sign-in sheets starting in April, which would seem to indicate he did not receive overtime prior to that. It’s not clear exactly why the business administrator suddenly started getting overtime in April.
Early in October, in response to questions about his gross overtime for the year, Thomas said one of the reasons for the extra pay was the extra work he assumed as Paterson’s affirmative action officer. The previous person in that position had been laid off in mid-March.
The time sheets, however, show the vast majority of the extra hours he worked came on days that the Paterson City Council held meetings. Less than 30 percent of Thomas’ overtime – about 51 hours – came on days when the council did not meet.
The accumulation of extra hours for council meetings started on April 5, according to Thomas’ sign-in sheets. He started work that day at 9:30 am and signed out at 12:15 am, the time sheet shows. That’s a 14.75-hour work shift. Take away eight hours of straight time and 30 minutes of lunch and that leaves 6.25 hours of overtime.
That was nothing unusual. On 17 occasions, Thomas rang up six hours or more of apparent overtime on days when the city council met.
Thomas is one of two city administration officials who routinely attend the council meetings, which often drag on late into the night. The other is Paterson’s Corporation Council Paul Forsman. City payroll records show no overtime payments to Forsman.