Paterson Top Stories

Update w/ PBA Comment: City Council Lifts Freeze on Police Overtime Payments, Approves $269,000 Worth of Checks

e4e4ab839092405a78a9_police_hq.jpg
e4e4ab839092405a78a9_police_hq.jpg

 

PATERSON, NJ – Under pressure from a lawsuit, the City Council on Tuesday approved payment on $269,000 worth of overtime for Paterson police officers, some of which was for work performed as long as three months ago.

The city council in March had stopped approving police overtime on the grounds that the department had not provided enough documentation to substantiate the work. Council members also were upset that police officers had refused to participate in their inquiry into last year’s controversial flood overtime.

Sign Up for E-News

In response to the freeze, the city police unions had filed a federal lawsuit over the unpaid overtime.

Last week, the judge in that case had recommended that the council pay the overtime, said Alex Cruz, president of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local #1. "This is money the officers had coming to them for working the homicides and all these aggravated assaults we've been having,'' Cruz said. "We have an obligation to protect the city, but the city also has an obligation to pay these officers for the work they have done.''

The union also had prevailed in a separate lawsuit that maintained the officer's law enforcement status precluded council members from asking them certain questions about their jobs.

On Monday, eight months after they were originally were subpoenaed, several police officers testified in the city council’s flood overtime inquiry. But as a result of the union’s victory in its lawsuit, the officers only answered questions about the overtime process, said City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris. The officers would not answer questions about their own overtime hours or what duties they performed while accumulating the overtime, Morris said.

City records show that one officer was paid for 18 hours of overtime for six straight days during last year's flooding.

For too long, Morris said, the police officers have been allowed to submit overtime without sufficient justification. “We cannot continue to operate this way,’’ said Morris. “It’s one of the things that lead to the 29 percent tax increase the previous year.’’

Councilman William McKoy, chairman of the public safety committee, said the council faced “a peculiar dilemma” on the police overtime. “There is a shield around the department,’’ McKoy said.

Under the police department’s process for filing overtime, supervisors fill out the OT requisitions rather than the officers who performed the work, McKoy said. “That’s a fundamental flaw in the process’’ because the individuals who supposed performed the work cannot be held accountable for verifying it, he said.

Moreover, McKoy said, the recent court ruling protected the department from any outside review of its overtime practices. The department’s own Internal Affairs division seemed to be the only entity allowed to probe the details of the officers’ overtime, McKoy said. “You have the department reviewing itself,’’ McKoy said.

But Cruz said in an interview that officers' overtime gets plenty of scrutiny before the forms are submitted to the police director for approval. "There's a lot of checks and balances,'' Cruz said. "If they don't think there's enough, that's up to the chief and the director to determine. It's not up to the PBA.''

Cruz said he was disappointed that the city council had chosen to hold back overtime just for police officers and not for any other city employees.

City finance officials said the checks for the $269,000 in overtime approved on Tuesday would be issued this week. Those payments put the department close to $200,000 over its budget line item for overtime, officials said. But the police department remains within its overall budget for 2012, officials said.

In an effort to monitor police overtime more closely, Morris on Tuesday night said the council ought to adopt an ordinance to create “red flags” when certain spending thresholds are surpassed. Morris suggested the council require the police director to appear before the city council once the police department uses up 80 percent of its overtime budget. Morris also proposed that the police department not be allowed to exceed its overtime budget by more than 20 percent.

At Morris’ request, City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman said he would research city laws and prepare a proposed ordinance restricting police overtime spending.

Despite the harsh criticism of the police overtime spending, the city council voted 9-0 to allow the payment of the $269,000.

“We have to be diplomatic about the way this thing goes,’’ said Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, saying he did not want rank-and-file officers to be deprived of money they had earned.

Several council members also made it clear that the union’s pending lawsuit influenced their decision.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Paterson

TAPinto Paterson Reader Shares Concerns About Absentee Ballots

April 21, 2018

Dear editor:

I am writing this letter to express a grave concern I have regarding the influx of absentee ballots. To my understanding, absentee ballots were designed to be used by those who are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. Such as people in the armed services or those who are away on vacation. 

This year’s municipal election will be one for the history books.

Assembly's Longest Serving Member Dead at 79

April 19, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- Paterson's Assembly members, Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly, are mourning the loss of their colleague, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield) who died on Thursday.

Green, 79, was the longest serving member of the Assembly, and considered to be a champion of affordable housing. Green stepped down as Chairman of the Union County Democratic Organization on January 24 to ...

Paterson Mayor Candidate Andre Sayegh Names Vaughn L. McKoy, a Paterson Native, as Campaign Counsel

April 20, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- Andre Sayegh, the sixth ward councilman who is seeking to be Paterson’s next mayor in the city’s elections next month, has named Paterson native Vaughn L. McKoy, JD, MBA as his campaign counsel.

McKoy, a former state and federal prosecutor as well as a lawyer in private practice, will volunteer and serve as a key adviser to the campaign. Sayegh said he felt extremely ...