After 19 years as chief of the Kearny Police Department, John Dowie will retire from that job on Dec. 1 under a newly-concluded separation agreement with the town that provides him with additional compensation.
As a municipal public-safety employee enrolled in the state pension plan, Dowie, by state statute, is required to leave on the first day of the month after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 65.
He’s been a member of the KPD since mid-January 1979 and he became chief in February 1998.
Members of the town governing body discussed details of the agreement in closed session before returning to open session to approve it.
Because Dowie has no employment contract with the town, the governing body struck an agreement with the chief that spells out “the terms of his final salary and retirement benefits….”
To that end, Dowie’s annual base salary of $178,805 was raised to $188,160 — retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016 — to a “level that is appropriately above the deputy police chief’s [base] salary [$179,200]” and was granted retirement benefits “consistent with such benefits provided to superior officers in the police department….”
A companion ordinance – subject to a public hearing and adoption Dec. 5 – ratifying the change in pay for Dowie creates a “5% differential between his salary and that of the deputy chief,” according to Mayor Alberto Santos. “That would equal an additional amount of $10,844.60 for 2016 and $6,295.44 for 2017.”
Additionally, the town agreed to provide the chief $87,609.50 – which breaks out as: $28,658.22 for 36 unused vacation days, $5,687.53 for holiday days, $1,519.75 for unpaid longevity and $51,744 for “debriefing” (terminal) pay.
So Dowie’s total payout will come to $104,749.54.
Also, the chief will get to “maintain health insurance coverage from the town … with no requirement to pay contribution toward the cost of the benefits because his length of service exceeded 20 years as of June 28, 2011.”
Meanwhile, the issue of Dowie’s replacement remains to be worked out.
Here’s how Santos explained the situation in an email to The Observer: “We need to find out from [N.J.] Civil Service whether we have to do an acting appointment first until we get a certified list or if we can act without waiting for the certification and appoint a new permanent chief.
“Either way, as acting or permanent, we expect to appoint George King [the current deputy chief] at the Dec. 5 meeting.”
Then there’s the matter of who would step into the slot to be vacated by King.
According to Council President Carol Jean Doyle, Police Capt. Scott Macfie is ranked No. 1 on an appointment list for deputy chief. “He got a perfect score and the list is good through July 2018,” said Doyle.
But here again, Santos said, “we can’t act on it until it’s certified. We want to resolve [the] acting/permanent question regarding [the] next chief first.”
Doyle said she’s “hoping King becomes chief and Macfie, deputy chief. George is the only one qualified for chief and I feel comfortable with Scott as deputy. We should move on both with a smooth transition.”
At the same time, though, the lawmaker will be sad to see Dowie go.
“I’m going to miss him,” she said. “He’s a man of great integrity and he’s earned the respect of his men. And he was fair not only with his men but with the department. His performance has been exemplary. In my years on the council I’ve worked with [several] chiefs and I found Chief Dowie outstanding by far.
“And he’s a police chief 24/7. Even at night when he’s walking his dog, he’s reporting things.”