Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres took a number of days off since assuming office in July 2014 that are unaccounted for in the city’s personnel division attendance records, according to municipal documents.
Torres used a sick day on September 25th, 2014. He took a day off on October 27th, 2014. He took another day off on December 26th, 2014. None of the three days he took off in 2014 appear in the attendance controller’s report for that year.
The next year, Torres took off on February 26th and 27th, 2015. The two days he took off do not appear in the 2015 attendance controller’s report. A review of Torres’ daily schedule – nearly 500 pages — going back to July 1st, 2014 reveal he took many days off that went unrecorded in the attendance controller’s report.
Torres did not return calls seeking his remarks for this story.
Council president William McKoy said the mayor is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He did not think the mayor needed to track vacation and sick days.
“I have a problem when you say you’re sick and you don’t report it,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. He was baffled as to why Torres would not report the sick days. Torres has reported the vacation days he used, but not the sick days. “If you say you are sick on your schedule, why not report it to personnel,” he said.
Tavarez wondered whether Torres intends to cash out at the end of his third term. Torres cashed out his leave time for a questionable $74,000 severance check at the end of his term in 2010. Since then, the city has enacted policies to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, hearkened back to the controversial $74,000 check Torres received. He raised questions about the sick and vacation days Torres cashed out for the severance check and whether they were legitimate or the result of poor attendance keeping.
An investigative report into the $74,000 severance check found Torres did not use any sick days from January 1, 2005 through June 30, 2010.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office in a three sentence letter on September 4th, 2014 ostensibly cleared Torres of any wrongdoing in connection with the $74,000 check. The letter noted the Torres matter did not meet the prosecutor’s criteria for prosecution. “However, if you receive additional materials in the future you may supply them to this office for consideration,” ended the letter.
City officials indicated Torres’ attendance controller’s reports for 2014 and 2015 are being revised to reflect the hitherto unrecorded days the mayor took off. Some have suggested the fault lies with the secretary who tracks Torres’ attendance.
Alana Onorato, who records Torres’ attendance which is then sent to the personnel office, declined to discuss the matter last week. “I cleared it,” she said when reached via phone.
Onorato said she “cleared” the matter with business administrator Nellie Pou. The days unaccounted for in the attendance controller’s reports are curiously mostly sick days, for Torres’ personal days and vacation days are accurately tracked.
It’s not clear whether Torres had a policy ordering his secretary to report some days while avoid reporting others.
The 2014 attendance controller’s report shows Torres took a half-day on July 10th, 2014. He went on a retreat with his cabinet members from October 22nd through 24th, 2014. And he took a personal day on November 26th, 2014, according to city records.
Torres’ personal day taken on November 26th, 2014 is not evident or clear in his daily schedule.
Torres’ 2015 attendance controller’s report shows he took four vacation days in June and July. He took four vacation days in September. And in October he used three personal days, according to municipal records.