The Lyndhurst Township Board of Commissioners voted last Tuesday to give raises to members of PBA Local 202 but bypassed – for now at least – two captains represented by the Superior Officers Association, one of whom has a suit pending against the township.
The commissioners also awarded a retroactive salary hike to Dep. Police Chief Carmine Litterio, who was appointed to that post despite Police Chief James O’Connor recommending someone else – Det. Capt. John Valente – who ended up suing over the issue.
At any rate, as the result of a new contract agreement between the township and Local 202, the commissioners approved a new salary guide for patrol officer, detective, sergeant and lieutenant.
The two-year guide, covering 2016 and 2017, provides for annual 2% pay increases.
Township CFO Robert Benecke told The Observer that the raises for 47 cops will cost the township about $120,000 each year.
Under the new guide, annual pay for patrol officer at maximum step of the guide will go from the 2015 rate of $113,070 to $117,638 over the life of the contract; detective’s pay, $119,246 to 124,064; sergeant’s pay, $123,779 to $128,780; and lieutenant’s pay, $134,491 to $139,924.
Local 202 members not currently at the top step of the guide “shall receive their step increase 30 days after their anniversary date,” according to the amended salary ordinance adopted by the governing body.
Chief O’Connor estimated that about 90% of the members are currently receiving maximum pay.
Local 202 President Anthony Rucigliano could not be reached last week for comment.
Meanwhile, the commissioners also adopted an ordinance – to which no objections were raised – which said they “recognized that the township is required to provide the position of Deputy Chief of Police with the same increase in salary of 2% for the period of Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2015.”
Consequently, the resolution continued, “the maximum annual salary, excluding longevity, holiday and other forms of compensation paid to the Deputy Chief of Police shall be $155,914, effective Jan. 1, 2015.”
For the 2011 fiscal year, when Litterio was serving as police lieutenant, his salary had been set by ordinance at $146,921. In July 2014, he was promoted to deputy chief to replace Charles Giangeruso, who had retired from the position in January 2011 and his salary was then bumped up to $163,948.
An additional salary boost of 2% was proposed for the deputy chief’s position by the commission but then tabled in September 2014.
In January 2015 – several months after three commissioners voted to remove Mayor Robert Giangeruso as public safety head – the governing body reduced Litterio’s pay, without explanation, to $152,857. (Giangeruso switched departments with then-Public Affairs Commissioner John Montillo Jr.
Valente’s suit alleges he was unfairly passed over for promotion to deputy chief and that the township allegedly trespassed on his civil rights, failed to protect him as a “whistleblower,” committed age discrimination, civil conspiracy and other alleged breaches of law.
He is seeking immediate promotion to deputy chief, back pay corresponding to that rank, damages and legal fees and/or a jury trial.
In other business last Tuesday, the commissioners:
- Approved a change order for $146,578 to the contract of Smith Sondy Asphalt Construction Co., of Wallington, representing a 12.35% increase, for the 2015 road program/improvements to various streets. Public Works Commissioner Matthew Ruzzo told The Observer that the funds would enable the contractor to complete resurfacing of Chase Ave., from Page to Fern Aves. He said the commission would award a contract for 2016 road improvements in the spring.
- Joined the Bergen County League of Municipalities in opposing passage of Senate Bills S 781 and S 782 which assign local officials more responsibilities in complying with expanded provisions of the Open Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act and which would subject local government officials to individual fines for non-compliance.
Among other things, the bills call for municipalities to provide additional archived documents, make available notes from government “sub-commitees,” to include the public in discussions on “actual” or “final” contracts, to provide minutes of regular agenda meetings within 60 days after the meeting and to post agendas and other relevant information on the internet – even if the municipality operates no website. The commissioners reasoned that the existing OPRA and OPMA laws are sufficiently transparent and that township employees can barely keep up with OPRA requests now.
Since Jan. 1, the township has received “about 40” OPRA requests for information, according to Township Clerk Angela White.
“There comes a time when staffing and budget requirements are exhausted just to accommodate a select few people who bombard our municipalities with public record requests,” the commissioners said in a resolution they adopted Tuesday.
Moreover, they said, the township website is “always updated” to provide “all the information [including meeting minutes, agendas and budgets] required by law; that fees charged for fulfilling OPRA requests are too low for the work required which “takes valuable time away from our staff,” that OPRA “allows animal rights groups to utilize municipal services for their private commercial gain” and that the proposed changes to the law will only “add secretarial expenses and additional reports to the cost of running sub-committee meetings,” which, they said, are rarely attended by the public.