PATERSON, NJ – Police Chief James Wittig will receive a $249,782 severance package under an agreement approved by the City Council Tuesday night.
Wittig’s last day on the job will be Saturday and Deputy Police Chief Chief William Fraher will take over as acting chief, said public safety director Glenn Brown.
“That’s my choice,’’ Brown said of Fraher. “He’s a strong disciplinarian and that’s what I need in there.’’
Fraher also has seniority over the other two deputy chiefs, Danny Nichols and Robert Drace, who is on medical leave, Brown said. It's not clear how long it will take to pick a permanent chief. That has to go through the civil service hiring process, officials said.
On his way out the door, Wittig will receive a series of retroactive pay increases that will boost his retiring salary by about $30,000, to $195,538. The raises will generate a retroactive pay check of $113,845. In addition to that, Wittig will get $135,937 for his accumulated leave time under the agreement.
Councilmen William McKoy and Kenneth Morris raised questions about the validity of Wittig’s accumulated leave time.
“Some of these hours were accumulated long before I got there,’’ Brown told the council.
“Whether or not it’s thorough or accurate, one would hope,’’ said Mayor Jeffrey Jones.
"I'm trying to wrap my arms around this golden parachutte here,'' said Morris.
Eventually Morris and McKoy joined with Council President Anthony Davis and colleagues Andre Sayegh and Benjie Wimberly to approve Wittig’s deal. Only Councilman Julio Tavarez voted against it. Council members Vera Ames-Garnes and Rigo Rodriguez were absent, while Aslon Goow has recused himself from the vote because of pending lawsuit he has against Wittig.
In addition to the payout, Wittig also will receive indemnification from the city against possible litigation arising from his work as police chief. The retroactive raises he received will boost his pension by about $20,000 to about $135,000 per year.
The council had been scheduled to vote on Wittig’s retirement last week, but demanded Jones’ presence to answers questions. As it turned out, the council didn’t really ask much of the mayor.
Council members said they were anxious to replace Wittig so the police department could move in a new direction.
Wittig would reach the state’s mandatory police officer retirement age of 65 in February. But council members said they wanted to finalize his retirement before the new year so he would not get a new allotment of leave days worth about $43,000.