Jose Torres, former city mayor, dropped off a check for $2,238.51 on Thursday afternoon at the City Hall, repaying one of the two controversial checks he received during his time in office.
Torres said out of the $3,169.10 that was issued to him in August 8th, 2008, he only received a direct deposit of $2,238 – and that is the amount he has returned.
City officials have confirmed that a payment from the former mayor was received, but they were uncertain whether the amount repaid was the correct number.
The former mayor, who is seeking another term, said the payment was deposited in his bank due to a payroll “error.”
A separate check the former mayor received prior to leaving office was in the amount of $73,996. During his last week in office he cashed in his sick and vacation time for a lump sum payment.
On Tuesday night the city council unanimously passed a resolution demanding the former mayor repay the gross amount of $73,996. “As you can see the city council is unanimous in its opinion that the former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres should do the right thing by returning the $74.000,” said Andre Sayegh, council president and 6th Ward councilman.
Torres said he is willing to repay the $74,000 only if the attorney general’s office or the prosecutor’s office find some sort of wrongdoing. An investigation completed by Charles Thomas, the city’s business administrator, found there were “discrepancies,” but judgement on whether it was legal or merely unethical was withheld. Domenick Stampone, the city’s head lawyer, sent the report to Camelia Valdes, the Passaic County Prosecutor, for “review and consideration.”
The prosecutor’s office has yet to comment on the findings.
The city has since then passed an ordinance barring elected officials from cashing in sick and vacation time for checks. Prior to the passage of the new rule the city’s policy was vague and ambiguous.
Jeffery Jones, the city’s current mayor, cashed out $17,394 worth of vacation time, based on precedence. “I am in the process of repaying, in full, $17,394.73 received for unused vacation time due to me,” wrote Jones in a letter admitting it was “improper” and he would repay the amount in its entirety.