ELIZABETH – In the last five years city police officers logged in close to a half-million off-duty pay-job hours which came to $13.5 million in extra pay, while the city generated $2.4 million in administrative fees from those jobs.
Information obtained from the city finance department using the Open Public Records Act further clarified not only how much money in pay jobs city police make, but also that the city is making double what LocalSource was initially told.
The issue of police officers working pay jobs first surfaced after the city police department discovered there were police officers not showing up for off-duty pay-jobs but still collecting a check.
It remains unclear why the matter was referred to the Prosecutor’s Office in the first place, who referred it, and how the department came up with the list of the 21 police officers who were found to be committing this third degree offense by deception.
Subsequently, two police officers lost their jobs as a result, one resigned and 18 others were remanded back to the city police department to be disciplined “administratively,” according to acting Prosecutor Grace Park.
At issue has been discovering exactly how much the city really pulls in for every hour police officers work an off-duty pay job at such places as the city housing authority, the school district, UEZ construction sites and other venues that request police security.
Initially it was reported by police officers that the city tacked on a $2.50 administrative fee for every hour they work at pay-jobs.
However, when LocalSource obtained the OPRA request late last week made to the city finance department March 3, the city finance department reported that the actual administrative fee is $5 for each hour that police officers work off-duty jobs that are officially registered with the department.
The $5 administrative fee is in addition to, rather than deducted from, police officers hourly pay rate of $30 per hour for off-duty pay jobs throughout the city. Prior to 2013, though, police officers made $27.50 per hour.
“Therefore the total hourly rate due from any persons, public entities, or private entities that contracted for off-duty police officers includes the administrative rate per hour added to the rate of compensation and to the supervisory rate if applicable,” the statement from the finance department noted.
According to information obtained from the city finance department using OPRA, in 2009 the city generated $566,260 in administrative fees from pay-jobs; $561,773.04 in 2010; $492,214.36 in 2011; $417,592.13 in 2012; and $393,830.01 in 2013, for a total of $2,431,669.54 for all five years.
Based on these administrative fees, from 2009 through 2013, city police officers worked a total of 486,334.91 pay-job hours in addition to their regular shift for the police department and were paid $13,571,097 above and beyond what they make in salary as a city police officer.
Meanwhile, in late March, after it was revealed that as many as 20 police officers had not shown up for pay-jobs at four city housing authority locations, the Elizabeth Board of Education called for a full audit of the time and taxpayer dollars spent on hiring off-duty police officers for security purposes at the schools.
Citing concern about “continued corruption in the Elizabeth Police Department,” the school board passed a resolution saying that based on the expenditure of public funds to pay these off-duty police officers, an audit was required to find out the names, dates, times of duty and school sites where these off-duty police officers worked.
The school district also petitioned the New Jersey State Comptroller to conduct an independent audit of paid police jobs in the Elizabeth Public schools “to insure that the Elizabeth Public Schools were not the victim of corruption alleged in newspaper articles and admitted to by the two Elizabeth police officers who have pled guilty to a crime.”
LocalSource used the OPRA law to obtain the exact amount of taxpayer dollars the school district paid for this service over the last five years, which, according to the school board, was deducted from an account by the city of Elizabeth.
According to vendor reports that include the 2009/2010 school year through the current 2013/2014 school year so far, the board of education approved $900,351.98 for off-duty school security pay-jobs.
This included $375,533.73 for the 2009/2010 school year; $218,686.25 in 2010/2011; $130,250.50 in 2011/2012; $175,881.50 in 2012/2013; and $123,057.75 as of April in the 2013/2014 school year.
The school district hires city police officers for additional police coverage to “provide a safe environment during the day and at dismissal,” according to Donald Goncalves, spokesperson for the school district.
“Safety is our number one priority – as we will insure our taxpayers receive the maximum amount of security coverage from out police department, especially when we have to pay for it ourselves,” said Tony Monterio, President of the Board of Education.
Carlos Trujillo, an Elizabeth Board of Education member and candidate running on the Real Democrats for Change ticket for a First Ward councilman seat issued a statement regarding the allegations of corruption in the city police department.
“The recent news reports of corruption and favoritism within the Elizabeth Police Department are extremely troubling,” he said, adding he believed that in order for the process of administrative hearings to be fair, “Police Director James Cosgrove and Police chief Patrick Shannon should recuse themselves immediately and take no role in the discipline hearings yet not scheduled.”
Trujillo said the entire matter should be turned over to an independent hearing officer in order to insure the integrity of the process. He also has deep concerns about what is going on internally within the department.
“It was reported that within the department ‘it’s not how good you are at your job, it’s who you know.’ That culture needs to be wringed out of the department starting with its leadership,” said the school board member.