The city’s police director Jerry Speziale has been nominally working as a part-time employee while putting in full-time hours. However, he was appointed and approved for a part-time post by the council last year before mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration adjusted the director’s compensation from part-time, 20 hours, to full-time, 40 hours.
Now though, some council members said the mayor went around the governing body’s wishes by making Speziale a full-time employee with a $90,000 salary instead of a part-time director with $45,000 pay as was approved by the council. “The police director has been doing a great job. He’s very accessible. However, he should not get paid a penny above the $45,000 unless we approve it,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
Tavarez said what the administration has been doing is “incorrect” by “going around the wishes of the council.” He said if the administration wanted a full-time police director it should have approached the council rather than shifting the salary from the vacant fire director post to add to the police director title.
Torres took on the duties of fire director after former public safety director Glenn Brown left the post following a demotion. Brown served both as fire and police director until Torres stripped him of the police director post leaving him only with the fire directorship and half the pay.
Responding to Tavarez Pou said, “The intent was not to create a full-time police director.” She said Speziale has been putting in 80 hours plus every two weeks.
“We didn’t approve a full-time director. So he should not be getting paid his salary plus the additional time,” said Tavarez.
Other council members want to legitimize Torres’ adjustment by adopting a measure that would make Speziale a full-time police director.
“If any director deserves a raise it’s Jerry Speziale,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, who also chairs the council’s public safety committee. “Why can’t we make him full-time?”
The council had before it two measures to set the salaries of directors and all city employees. One of those measures sets out two titles for the police director: one full-time and the other part-time. The full-time post has a $92,000 salary while the part time is $45,000, according to the ordinance.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, said he supports making Speziale full-time. He said with Speziale on full-time the city may not need a police chief. William Fraher has been serving as acting police chief since 2012.
Sayegh said this would save the city money. Pou said it may save the city money, but the director and the chief serve inherently different roles. The business administrator said the chief is responsible for operations, assigning duties and so forth.
A former Passaic County sheriff Speziale has been described as one of the “best” police directors the city has ever had earlier in the year by Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. Speziale has been able to boost police morale and has been successful in building ties between the community and the department.
In his state of the city address on Wednesday afternoon, Torres said homicides and shootings have been reduced by 50-percent under Speziale’s direction.