33 Paterson cops and firefighters getting more than $100,000 each in severance pay | Paterson Times Paterson Times

33 Paterson cops and firefighters getting more than $100,000 each in severance pay

By Jayed Rahman
Published: December 1, 2018


More than three dozen retiring firefighters and police officers are getting between $74,000 and $182,000 each in severance pay, according municipal records.

Municipal officials are borrowing $5 million to make the payments to the 43 fire and police employees. The city will have to pay the employees $5.37 million, according to municipal records.

24 police and 19 fire employees are retiring at the end of the current fiscal year, Jun. 30, 2019, according to government records, and cashing in their accumulated leave time.

Council members, who have given precursory approval to the borrowing measure earlier in the month, did not receive a list of the retiring employees.

The city released the list on Wednesday afternoon. But, the information released on Wednesday, which was the basis for stories in the Paterson Times and the Paterson Press, contained incorrect payout amounts for fire employees. The Paterson Times story appeared early Friday morning and was retracted before the afternoon. After inquiries to both the mayor’s office and the city clerk’s office, municipal officials on Friday night provided correct payout amounts to the Paterson Times.

“It’s earned income that they are entitled to,” said Mason Maher III, president of the city’s police Superior Officers’ Association. Half of the retiring police employees are superior officers — sergeants and lieutenants.

The big payouts are driven by what’s called terminal leave time. Police and fire employees’ union contracts allowed up to 720 hours of terminal leave time. This has been reduced to 500 hours in the contracts approved in 2016. Municipal officials at the time said the reduction, which affects employees hired after 2016, will save the city significant amounts of money in the future.

Municipal officials have long viewed the practice of taking on debt to cover employees’ severance pay as unsustainable. The city has borrowed money for the past half-decade to make payments to retiring employees.

Councilman William McKoy has criticized the state government for failing to reform payouts for public safety employees. He has said former governor Chris Christie capped payouts for school district employees, but did not do the same for police and fire.

The city will continue to borrow to make severance payments until the system is reformed, McKoy said earlier in the month when the council gave preliminary approval to the borrowing measure. A final public hearing and final vote is scheduled for Dec. 17.

Flavio Rivera, councilman at-large, chairman of the finance committee, expressed concerns over borrowing money to cover operational expenses. He has said the state recommended the city bond to pay retiring employees.

The exodus of so many police officers has created a challenge for police brass. Police director Jerry Speziale said as many as 87 officers are eligible for retirement this fiscal year. With the labor contract expiring on Jul. 31, 2019, many are sure to leave rather than face uncertainty over a new contract.

Police have a pool of 200 candidates. 30 will likely be picked to be part of the next class. Speziale needs approval from both the administration and the state before putting together a new class for police academy in January.

The director said the Bergen County Police Academy has two windows, January and July. If the city fails to replace the retiring officers, police warned of a possible crime surge in the hot some months.

The retiring employees and their buyout amounts are listed below:

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