Hillside haggling over recent retiree pension issue

HILLSIDE, NJ — A portion of the township’s police union contract affecting retirees that has gone unresolved since the previous administration left office is now being tackled by the new mayor.

Superior officers in Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 160 had worked without a contract for about four years until July 2016, union President Lt. Matthew Cove said. While the current contract was approved about two years ago and officers received retroactive pay, the agreement has yet to catch up with retirees, he said.

“I completely understand the frustrations, trust me,” Cove said in a phone interview. “But in the interest of fairness, this new (business administrator) has been helping a lot.”

Superior officers were in a pay freeze while working without a contract from 2012 to about 2016, Cove explained when asked about it. Officers who retired within that four-year window never had their pensions adjusted for what they would have been making at the time of their retirement, if they’d had a contract.

The contract was negotiated during the administration of former Mayor Angela Garretson, who was first elected in 2014. Now the issue affecting retirees is being hashed out by current Mayor Dahlia Vertreese.

Details regarding how much the retroactive pension payments would cost the township were not immediately clear.
“At this time, since negotiations are still ongoing, we do not have details on definitive costs to the township or how the pay-out would be distributed,” township spokeswoman Natalie Pineiro said in a statement. “However, we are pleased with the direction of our negotiations and are confident that this road will lead us to a resolution that is amicable and feasible for all parties involved.”

Cove said he worked with the former Hillside chief financial officer to figure out a solution for the retirees and has mostly been working with the new business administrator, Hope Smith, recently.

“Hope has helped me out tremendously and things are moving in a positive direction,” Cove said, reiterating that he understands the frustration of the retirees.

He said that he would like to give “a chance” to the new administration, which began its tenure in January.
Cove was not sure exactly how many superior officers had retired between 2012 and 2016. A review of state Police and Firemen’s Retirement System from 2012 to 2017 showed officers’ retiring salaries were generally between tens of thousands of dollars and over $150,000, regardless of rank.