Police & Fire

Paterson Owes Nearly $5M to Police and Fire

6d84f23f9afaaf1de47b_Luis.jpg
Paterson Firefighter Luis Vega Credits: Steve Lenox
6d84f23f9afaaf1de47b_Luis.jpg

PATERSON, NJ- When Luis Vega joined the Paterson Fire Department he knew there were likely more lucrative, and safer, career paths. However, from an early age his desire was to “serve the community.”

32 years later, Vega, now the longest serving active firefighter in the department, is looking towards retirement. “I’ve run into burning buildings, I’ve lost brothers, and I’ve had a few bumps and bruises,” said Vega. “Still, I believe, it’s the greatest job in the world.”

It’s stories of service to the community like Vega’s and at least 46 other active and retired Paterson firefighters and police officers, that Councilman Andre Sayegh was thinking about when he cast his vote earlier this week in support of an ordinance that would allow the city to bond for nearly $5 million to cover the retirement payouts that are due to recent and upcoming retirees.

Sign Up for E-News

“The men and women that serve Paterson do so at great risk to themselves,” stated Sayegh. “These retirement checks aren’t a bonus we are giving them on the way out the door, they were earned through decades of putting themselves in front of danger to help others, and rarely, if ever, calling out for a day off.”

While Paterson Business Administrator Nellie Pou shared a list of terminal leave payouts she did not reveal the names of whom they were associated with. This, she suggested, was the most appropriate course of action as not all of the retirements are final.

Council members Michael Jackson and Martiza Davila defended the omission with Jackson calling it a “courtesy to not make someone’s personal business public” and Davila suggesting that at this point they “only needed figures, not names.”

While retirement benefits have been capped by both state law and collective bargaining agreements in recent years those retirees included on the list the Council discussed started their career when terminal leave was unlimited.

“It’s unfortunate that some in public office aren’t being fully truthful when it comes to explaining that our members earned this money though twenty five, maybe thirty years of dedicated service,” stated Jerry Behnke, President, Paterson FMBA Local 2. The overtime costs that Paterson would’ve realized over the years if these workers had decided to call in sick or otherwise used their agreed upon days off would’ve far exceeded these payments he suggested.

The Council’s lone vote against the ordinance came from Councilman William McKoy who referred to the payouts multiple times as “boat checks,” and criticized Governor Christie for failing to set lower caps on retirement payouts for police officers and firefighters like he did to other public employees.

His statements, according to Behnke “play right into the hands of Christie who has spent eight years creating an us versus them culture.” He added that through the collective bargaining process, and with a “healthy respect” for the city’s financial constraints, the union recently agreed to a contract that set a significantly lower limit on retirement payouts for newer members.

The council is set to further discuss, and hold a public hearing on, this issue at their meeting on Nov. 21.

Editor’s Note: In the interest of transparency, the publisher of TAPinto Paterson also serves as a spokesman for Paterson FMBA Local 2

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Paterson

Paterson Resident Says Let Inauguration of Governor Murphy be an Example for Paterson

January 16, 2018

Dear Editor, 

Today I witnessed the awesome, solemn and peaceful transfer of power from Governor Chris Christie to Governor Phil Murphy thanks to the generous invitation of Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly.

Indeed, this was my first State of New Jersey Governor's inauguration. It was a thrill and an honor to be in attendance.  These are the days that you can truly say that you ...

Passaic County Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara Teams With Local Non-Profit to Help Homeless

January 18, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- Passaic County Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara partnered with Paterson based non-profit Global Emergency Response and Assistance (GERA) to honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King by distributing blankets and hot food donated by Al Basha Restaurant to homeless residents in Passaic on Tuesday.

GERA Founder and Director Sikandar Khan said that the organization was established to ...

Paterson’s Dr. Christopher Irving Resigns from Board of Education to Serve in Adminstration of Governor Phil Murphy

January 17, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- Just over 24 hours after taking the oath of office New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has added a Paterson voice to his Administration.

Dr. Christopher Irving, a member of the Paterson Board of Education for nearly eight years, has been appointed as Assistant Commissioner of Education. His role, Irving told TAPinto Paterson, is still evolving but might include helping to ...

Special Needs Prom to be Sponsored by Tim Tebow Foundation

January 20, 2018

NEW JERSEY – Young adults ages 14 and older with special needs are invited to a very special prom night experience, courtesy of the Tim Tebow Foundation.

The foundation will be sponsoring its annual Night To Shine prom at locations across northern New Jersey on Feb. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Attendees can ride to the event in a limousine, they will be treated to hair and makeup treatments, ...

Drink Your Way to a Healthier 2018

January 13, 2018

It’s that time of year again, just 13 days in and you’ve probably already broken that New Year’s Resolution.  “New Year, New Me” has already gone out the window! This will be the year where we actually start going to the gym regularly and eating healthier.  Not so fast!. However, it’s not too late to get back on track, and while fitness and a healthy ...