City introduces legislation to prevent another Torres type incident | Paterson Times Paterson Times

City introduces legislation to prevent another Torres type incident

By Jayed Rahman
Published: February 5, 2014


A new resolution in front of the City Council seeks to bar elected officials from cashing out unused sick and vacation days.

The resolution sponsored by William McKoy, the 3rd Ward councilman, reads, “The municipal council wishes to bar the granting of compensation to local elected officials for unused sick days and unused vacation days.”

The new resolution comes after an investigation completed by the city revealed discrepancies involving the $73,996 severance payment that was issued to Jose “Joey” Torres, two term former mayor of the city, during his last week in office.

Torres had ostensibly saved 110 sick days, most of them while he was mayor, for which he was issued $50,244; unused vacation days, 52 of them, resulted in the former mayor receiving $23,752; the total for sick and vacation days added up to a check for $73,996. The report stated that sick and vacation days for the mayor were not tracked until 2005, three years into Torres’ first term.

Ambiguous personnel policy had allowed the former mayor to cash in his sick and vacation days during his last week in office. The previous policy neglected to differentiate between elected office holder and unelected city employees.

The introduced legislation seeks to amend the city’s personnel policies to exclude sick and vacation days for both councilmembers and mayor – elected officials are not to receive payouts for unused sick and vacation days, according to the resolution. “We’ve talked about this. We didn’t want any future mayor or council people to claim and take those vacation and sick times and use them for payouts,” said McKoy.

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, an agency that monitors the city’s finances, weighed in two weeks ago stating it will stipulate the city never issues similar payments to elected officials in the future. McKoy, who often sees the heavy hand of the State as not much different from colonialism, said now the State doesn’t need to do it through a memorandum of understanding with the city. “We’ve already done it for ourselves,” said McKoy.

“Now that was the only reason I was going to run for mayor, for that perk,” joked Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large.

The report completed by the city, done by Charles Thomas, the city’s business administrator, has been sent to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the State Attorney General’s Office to obtain an opinion whether the former mayor cashing in sick days was illegal or merely unethical; the city’s legal department and the administration neglected to pass judgments in their report.

The resolution, which will be up for vote during the next council meeting, seeks to clarify personnel policy and protect against elected officials cashing in sick and vacation days.

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