City council to consider legal action against Torres, Jones, Taylor, Coba, DeCando | Paterson Times

City council to consider legal action against Torres, Jones, Taylor, Coba, DeCando


In a continued effort to recoup the $74,000 in “potentially unlawful” severance pay that mayor Jose “Joey” Torres received during his last week in office in 2010, the city council plans to hold a closed door meeting on Tuesday evening to consider a possible legal recourse.

Council members are also slated to discuss litigation against Denise Coba, health department employee; Betty Taylor, assistant personal director; John DeCando, animal control officer, and former mayor Jeffery Jones.

Torres owes — based on the council’s determination — the city approximately $74,000 due to a severance check – sick and vacation pay — that the mayor received during his last week in office in 2010. The state has called the payment “grossly inappropriate and potentially unlawful”; however, the mayor has repeatedly said the payment was earned for his services to the city.

Jones is on the hook for following Torres’ precedence and cashing out $17,000 worth of vacation time. A week before leaving office, Jones said he was still considering whether to return the money.

The former mayor could not be reached for comments.

DeCando received $144,000 in retroactive pay for being on standby from 2007 to 2010. Betty Taylor received improper overtime payments following hurricane Irene.

Coba was hired by the city despite not meeting basic employment requirements. And the hiring violated the city’s own ethics code which disallows nepotism. Coba is sister-in-law to health director Donna Nelson-Ivy.

Tuesday’s special meeting lists the items without any details. Council president Julio Tavarez, who is in charge of the agenda, could not immediately be reached for comments.

The items are listed under law. Law department director Dominick Stampone could not be reached for comments at his office.

“We need to be updated on these items,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. Sayegh said these controversies are not going to go away; the city has to address them.

Other council members said there wasn’t any discussion prior to the items being added into the agenda. Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, said she saw the items after they were added on to the agenda, and did not have much details about them.

The council passed a resolution demanding Torres return the funds; however, the mayor so far has not adhered to the council’s demands. “The council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on mayor Torres to give the money back. And we also adopted a policy to prevent any future mayor, including the current mayor, from doing what he did,” said Sayegh.

Torres on Monday morning said he was not at liberty to comment on the potential lawsuits, for they were personnel matter.

“We’re going to have to take a look at what the legal cost is going to be and what are the chances in actually recovering the money,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. “I’m willing to have a discussion on possible litigation at any time where the benefit is going to the Paterson taxpayers.”

Morris said it would not make sense for the city to pursue a legal course if the cost exceeds the amount the city is attempting to recover.

“He’s ethically obligated to return the $74,000, and if we take him to court it’s going to cost taxpayers even more money,” said Sayegh. It’s not clear what the legal price tag is going to be for the five separate legal actions.

Morris, who heads the finance committee, said lawsuits and things dealing with money usually goes through his committee; however, in this case the items did not go through the finance committee.

Updated: 12:30 p.m. Monday, October 6th, 2014.

Correction: After a perceptive user pointed out, that, the word “owes” is loaded with subjectivity, for nothing is owed until a determination has been made. Emendations have been made to attribute “owes” — in text block three — as a determination made by the city council, for it has passed a resolution asserting just that. In other words, “owes” is the stance of the council, and not of this paper.

  • Dave Gilmore

    There should have been some discussion you would think?

  • Stephen

    Finally! We been waiting for this since 2011.

  • John Q Public

    This aint gonna make them pay the money back. PEOPLE IN PATERSON MADE A MISTAKE ELECTING JOEY TORRES. He aint do notuing in 8 years he was in mayor office we just dumb enough to buy his shit. we need to remove him!

  • Objective reporting needed.

    Writing that "Torres owes the city approximately $74,000 due to a severance check," is unresponsible reporting. This is a subjective statement. Until such litigation occurs and a judge say he must pay the money back, he does not owe anything to the City. In regards to the State saying the payment may have been inappropriate and potentially unlawful, well that was just a statement – not an order for him to repay the money. Sorry, Paterson Times. You need to work harder at being objective in your reporting.

    • KerryMalloy

      Bull sh…!
      Only a lawyer would say something as
      full of crap as this statement.
      He took a payment that he knew was unlawful.
      All involved should go to jail.
      This type of behavior is proof that most politicians are corrupt and money hungry.

  • Jacque Gonzales

    Don't matter how much we spending to get them crooks in court Paterson need to speak up and set examples. we need to lock them thieves up.

  • Here we go again …

    … just curious
    If Torres was not "entitled" to the $74,000 he was GIVEN by PERSONNEL and APPROVED by the FINANCE COMMITTEE and APPROVED by the COUNCIL … will the council and finance committee members who approved the payment be reprimanded as well?? In other words, if you got paid for vacation time that you were entitled to received according to your contracts for 22 years of service … or THOUGHT you were entitled to receive … and ALL of your bosses approved the payment … should you be reprimanded for it? Should your bosses not be held to any accountability? WHO signs off on a check without knowing the details of it in the first place? I'm starting to think that Sayegh and others who signed it – Aslon Goow, Rigo Rodriguez, Jeff Jones, etc … all KNEW what they were doing and planned on sabotaging our city.

    If Torres has to repay the money, those who signed should resign because they didn't do their part in assuring that the monies were paid correctly … that is their job.