City Council Takes Another Swing at Overtime Repayments
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 • 3:15pm
PATERSON, NJ – The City Council once again is trying to force municipal officials to repay overtime that the state has deemed inappropriate.
In a 6-3 vote, the council on Tuesday passed a resolution that calls for Budget Officer Russell Forenza to repay the unspecified amount of overtime he has received since July 1, 2010, for Public Works Director Christopher Coke to repay $7,768 and for assistant personnel Director Betty Taylor to repay $11,549.
The three council members who voted against the resolution were Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, Ruby Cotton and Kenneth McDaniel. They have questioned the fairness of recouping payments from Jones’ appointees but not from officials who served under previous administrations. Council members who voted in favor of the resolution said they were trying to fulfill their fiduciary duty to Paterson taxpayers.
Forenza, Coke and Taylor are three of the five city officials who the state cited by name as having received inappropriate overtime in a letter that the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services sent Paterson in December 2011. The other two officials – Thomas and Health and Human Services Director Donna Nelson-Ivy – currently are making repayments on the overtime, officials said.
The resolution calls for Mayor Jeffery Jones and Business Administrator Charles Thomas to put in place repayment schedules for Forenza, Coke and Taylor by March 1.
The council passed a similar resolution last October, but the administration has not enforced it. Jones has said his administration has asked an outside law firm to research the question of which city officials are entitled to overtime.
Forenza already has sued the city because it stopped paying him overtime in 2012. During his previous two decades as city budget officer, Forenza had received overtime on a regular basis.
Taylor, meanwhile, filed a legal complaint against the city last year when the council tried to terminate her from her job as personnel director in connection with her oversight of Paterson’s overtime payments. The state civil service commission eventually determined that the city could remove Taylor from her director’s job, but that she was entitled to return to the assistant director’s position she held before being prompted by Jones in 2010.
During the city’s 2011 overtime hearings, Coke testified that he felt he was entitled to the extra pay because his predecessors had gotten overtime.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Thomas said Coke’s overtime had been paid though grants provided by other government entities. But Councilman Kenneth Morris asserted that the distinction was immaterial.
“Whether it comes through grant funds, the municipal treasury, or any other funds, it’s still overtime,’’ Morris said. “Simply because it’s grant funds, that doesn’t mean it’s okay.’’