PATERSON, NJ – Dozens of rank-and-file municipal employees are still waiting for $207,078 worth of overtime they say they worked during the floods in September. Paterson’s police union has filed a contract grievance to try to force the city council to release the checks, which have already been printed.
But the city council’s finance chairman, Kenneth Morris, says the money will go back into Paterson’s general operations fund if administration officials do not provide documents detailing the overtime claims, which are for the two-week pay period starting September 5. That decision may be made on Tuesday, Morris said.
Meanwhile, after two failed starts, the City Council on Wednesday is planning to launch its inquiry into the $756,000 worth of flood overtime checks issued for the last week of August and the first five days of September. The first wave of overtime included the controversial checks issued to Mayor Jeffrey Jones, his chief of staff and various department heads – payments that later were returned after the state said they were improper.
The two issues that prompted the adjournment of the first two overtime hearings seem to have been resolved.
Jones walked out of the first session, saying the administration needed until the end of October to compile the payroll records requested by the council. He also argued that employees had not been given enough notice that they might be called to testify. Officials said all the information has now been put together and provided to Morris, who is heading the inquiry.
The second hearing was cut short because City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman, who represents both the administration and city council, decided he faced a potential conflict serving as attorney in proceedings that ultimate may end in lawsuits between the two branches of city government.
Since then, the city council has retained its own special counsel for the inquiry and on Tuesday is scheduled to approve a resolution retaining Richard Potter as the lawyer for the mayor.
The second wave of flood overtime checks worth $207,078, which officials say are made out to police officers, firefighter and public works employees, were pulled from the city council’s list of bills to pay during its October 25 meeting.
Morris said he has asked for records that would show exactly what days and hours the overtime for each individual covered, as well as an explanation for the need for the overtime.
“Absent the documents, the message you’re sending is that those hours weren’t actually worked,’’ Morris said.
The police union sent the city a letter objecting to the delay on October 27, said Policemen’s Benevolent Association, Local #1 president, Alex Cruz. The union then filed a grievance on November 19, Cruz said.
“It’s a violation of the contract,’’ Cruz said. “Our people worked these hours and are entitled to be paid for them. It seems like the city does whatever it wants to do.’’
As of early last week, none of the other unions had filed grievances on the unpaid overtime, officials said.
Meanwhile, Wednesday looms as the night when Mayor Jeffrey Jones may unveil the findings of his administration’s review of the controversial flood overtime. The hearing is scheduled to start at 8 pm at City Hall. Two other sessions are scheduled for Thurs., Dec. 1 and Fri., Dec 2 (AN earlier version of this story said the third hearing was going to be on December 9, but that has changed.)
Earlier this month, Jones met with City Council President Anthony Davis and two men went over the mayor’s report page by page. But the mayor would not give the council president a copy of it, Davis said.
“The mayor said if I took a copy, I couldn’t share it with the other council members, and I wouldn’t take it without sharing it,’’ Davis said.
Jones has said he wanted a meeting with the city council to present his administration’s findings.