Money earned for off-duty work increases with no plans for oversight announced

ELIZABETH – Police officers in Elizabeth depend heavily on off-duty pay jobs to augment their regular pay. In fact, the latest numbers from the city finance department for all pay jobs from 2009 through 2013 show city police officers received considerably more than previously reported – $9,766,171 more, to be exact.

When it surfaced last September that 21 Elizabeth Police officers had not shown up for off-duty pay jobs and at least 18 others had also abused the system, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park soon became involved.

After a six-month investigation, two veteran police officers plead guilty of theft by deception and lost their jobs as a result. A third, who was not prosecuted, also resigned.

Park decided not to prosecute the remaining 18 officers, recommending the entire issue be dealt with administratively. Since then, two veteran officers on the prosecutor’s list were told they had to retire by April 1, but city cops reported little else had been done to discipline the remaining police officers involved in the off-duty pay job scandal.

City police officers have told LocalSource widespread corruption within the department has left them with grave concerns about the future of the force. They also candidly revealed countless incidents of corruption during their tenure, including questionable actions taken by their police chief, Patrick Shannon, and the police director, James Cosgrove. To date, nothing has been done by Mayor Chris Bollwage to address any of these allegations, most of which were reported in articles over the last two months.

In early March LocalSource used the Open Public Records Act to request city finance documents that revealed city police officers and the city itself made millions in the last five years from this lucrative but basically uncontrolled cash cow called off-duty pay jobs.

Specifically, according to the latest records received from the city finance department Friday, police officers working pay jobs were paid $23,266,171.20 from 2009 through 2013.

This conflicted with a previous total of $13.5 million provided by the city finance department the week before in response to an OPRA request. Although this information was reported by LocalSource on April 10, according to the latest records, several other pay jobs were not included in the first OPRA record request.

Left out the first time were pay jobs involving “other permanents,” and “temporary permanent accounts,” both of which generated millions of pay to city cops.

Interestingly, the housing authority and school district pay jobs provided cops with considerably less off-duty income than pay jobs listed under “other permanents.” That number, the highest total amount for all pay jobs, came to $10.9 million over the same five-year period. In comparison, school district pay jobs over the same period of time only netted police officers $1.1 million while the housing authority netted officers about $2 million.

Urban Enterprise Zone, or UEZ, pay jobs provided police officers with $3.9 million in off-duty pay, while “temporary permanent accounts,” such as festivals and other events, added up to $5.1 million in off-duty pay for the five year period.

In total, city cops received $4.7 million for all pay jobs in 2009; $5.1 million in 2010; $4.7 in 2011; $4.4 in 2012; and $4.1 in 2013.
Trying to pinpoint the exact amount city police officers made per hour for these particular pay jobs was complicated initially, but became clearer with additional figures received from the finance department late last week.

Although the city finance department indicated two weeks ago that from 2009 through 2013 police officers received $27.50 per hour for pay jobs, a number that increased to $30 per hour beginning in 2013, last week city finance records revealed cops received considerably more money per hour for working construction site pay jobs.

For example, documents received from the finance department Friday proved that pay jobs at the housing authority, school district and UEZ paid $30 per hour.

In addition, police officers working construction pay jobs generated $40 per hour from 2009 through 2012. In 2013, however, this figure increased to $50 per hour.

For all job sites, the city received a $4 administrative fee from 2009 to 2012 for each hour worked, and $5 in 2013.
According to police officer sources, there has been no indication from Cosgrove, Shannon or Bollwage that the pay job system will undergo change so there are protections in place against fraud or deception.