Former Union City Chief of Police Charles Everett, who resigned in October following a scandal over alleged no-show jobs, will receive a compensation package of about $284,000 for unused sick and vacation time, media outlets reported last week.
Everett was accused of earning money for off-duty security details at the city’s fields and pools despite allegedly being at other places, at least during some the time. News 12 exposed the alleged violations in a segment last September in which they claimed they had videos of Everett arriving to the jobs late and leaving them early, as well as working out at the gym, all while the Board of Education paid the Police Department for his time.
The state Attorney General’s Office began investigating after the report aired.
At a recent Union City Board of Commissioners meeting, the city’s attorney, Christine Vanek, responded to questions about why Everett should receive a payout of taxpayers’ money if he may have been breaking the law.
“Now you’re seeing a new trend with elimination of the sick time.” – Mayor Brian Stack
The payout will occur even though in October, Mayor Brian Stack released a report conducted by a private attorney that recommended that Everett be hit with several disciplinary charges. Stack initiated the report following the News 12 segment exposing Everett’s alleged violations.
Stack stated at last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting that despite the findings in the report, he was advised by counsel not to follow through on the charges.
As of Everett’s resignation, his vacation days were worth $85,569, his sick days were worth $191,152, and other time was worth $9,605, NJ.com reported.
Multiple residents questioned the payout during the meeting’s public comment portion, including Kathie Pontus, who said her concerns were not political, but simply from the point of view of a taxpayer.
“Why should we be continuing to pay [Everett] if this investigation is ongoing?” she asked.
Everett did not wish to comment on the payout when phoned last week, and Mayor Stack’s office did not return multiple phone calls regarding the issue.
Action in Trenton
Pontus pressed Mayor Stack on the payout, and also questioned him on the bill he is attempting to push through the New Jersey Senate that would limit such payouts. The bill, S2117, would eliminate payments for unused sick leave and would limit an employee’s ability to accrue unused vacation time over a given amount of time.
Pontus asked if the bill would prevent payouts for sick leave and vacation time. Stack answered that it would.
“It’s like Governor Christie said, if you’re sick, then you should use your days, and if you’re not sick, then you should hit your knees and thank God you’re not sick,” he said.
Pontus asked specifically about the city’s current contract with the police union, under which Everett is being paid, and questioned whether there was language in it that reflected what Stack hopes to achieve via the bill.
Neither Stack nor Vanek were sure of the specific language in the contract, but Stack did say that without state legislation, contract negotiations could get easily out of his control.
“We’re dealing in a time when arbitrators and mediators go along with the current trend,” Stack said, in reference to the fact that under certain contracts, a municipal employee might collect compensation for unused sick leave in 2012, even if the leave might have been accrued years ago.
“Now you’re seeing a new trend, with elimination of the sick time, but you need state legislation to do so. Without legislation, without a state law, it’s not going to go anywhere,” Stack said. “You can put whatever you want in a contract, it won’t do any good.”
At a different Board of Commissioners meeting, in early November, Stack publicly defended his bill. “If it was up to me, no one would get paid for accrued time,” he said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org