There was no evidence of any wrong doing with the $74,000 severance check Jose “Joey” Torres received during his last week in office, according to a new report compiled by the former two-term mayor’s lawyers.
“Any payment for accumulated unused leave received from the city to Mayor Torres was proper,” concludes the report completed by Scarinci Hollenbeck, a Bergen County law firm. “There was no evidence of any wrong-doing either: Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, the law department, or any member of the city administration during the payment process.”
The firm which took into account various resolutions and employment records of the former mayor completed its report on Monday. Subsequently, during Wednesday’s mayoral forum at the city hall the mayor lifted up a copy of the report at the conclusion of the discussions, announcing its findings.
The report’s finding hinges on a 2006 ordinance that allows non-union city employees the same pay rates as union employees covered under the white collar supervisor’s contract. “The city historically provided all of its directors and former mayors with the same benefits as provided to the white collar supervisors,” read the report.
The ordinance simply grants an equalization of pay between union and non-union city supervisors nothing more.
Report completed by the firm also cites, “120 general employees and 192 fire and police employees, who retired with twenty-five (25) years of service have been compensated for their unused accumulated sick, vacation and personal time.” However, none of them held an elected position.
In a prescient letter to the city’s law department in March, Thomas Neff, director of local government services in the Department of Community Affairs, wrote “proffered explanations that hang on their fingernails on ‘past practice’ and provisions of inapplicable collective bargaining agreements are disingenuous.”
Neff’s letter urged the city to collect back the $74,000 after his agency, which oversees the city’s finances, reviewed ordinances to conclude no ordinance exists allowing elected officials to receive sick and vacation payouts.
The former mayor began working for the Paterson Housing Authority on January 2nd, 1985 until he was elected to office in May 2002, when he left the authority to run the city. During his stint as an employee of the authority, Torres completed 17-years of employment.
The 67-page report takes the 17-years and adds the 8-years Torres served as mayor to come up with 25-years of employment with the city to justify the severance payment.