Mayor’s Choice: Fire and Police Chiefs are No-Shows For Overtime Discussion
Thursday, July 26, 2012 • 9:34pm
PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Jeffrey Jones refused to send Paterson’s fire and police chiefs to a special City Council meeting Thursday night about overtime spending in the municipal public safety department.
City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman told the council members that Jones was willing to meet with them himself to discuss the overtime problem, but he declined to send “administration personnel.’’ Forsman told the council that the mayor had emphasized the separation of powers established by New Jersey’s Faulkner Act, the law that established Paterson’s form of government, in explaining his decision not to send Fire Chief Michael Posterino and acting Police Chief William Fraher to the meeting. (Fraher actually was at the council chambers to discuss a pending lawsuit involving the police department. But the council member did not ask him to discuss his department’s overtime in recognition of the mayor’s request.)
In recent months, Jones repeatedly has accused the city council of overstepping its authority and interfering with his power to run the day-to-day operation of city government. Council members, meanwhile, have accused Jones of doing a poor job of overseeing the city’s operations.
Overtime spending in the police and fire departments totaled more than $3 million combined last year and has been a frequent target of criticism from the council. At one point, the council stopped approving overtime payments for public safety workers, but relented under the pressure of a lawsuit brought by the police officers’ union.
In the 2013 fiscal year, the city already has spent more than a quarter million dollars on overtime for firefighters and police officers.
Glenn Brown, who serves as director for both the police and fire departments, has said part of the problems stems from personnel shortages. He also has told the council that it’s difficult to plan for overtime in departments that are responsible for responding to emergencies.
Earlier this month, council members decided to hold a special meeting with police and fire chiefs to discussion the overtime situation. Councilman William McKoy, chairman of the public safety committee, was not happy about Jones’ decision to make the chiefs off-limits to the council and he expressed doubts about the mayor’s ability to address the issue.
“Last time, I think he didn’t know the difference between exempt and non-exempt,’’McKoy said, taking a shot at Jones’ administration’s issuance of overtime checks to department heads. “How he becomes an expert in overtime is beyond me.’’
Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee, said increases in overtime spending would be offset by reductions in the police and fire department operating expense budgets. “If you spend overtime dollars, we’re going to take it from somewhere else,’’ Morris said.