TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie has often mentioned in his town halls the huge payouts police officers in Parsippany have received upon retirement for unused sick days as an example of the need for reform of pensions and benefits.
He frequently uses as an example a December 2009 incident, in which four township police officers received $900,000 in compensation for sick, vacation and personal days they hadn’t used. One retiring lieutenant received $317,000 at the time.
It appears the problem has not died down since that 2009 incident in one of Morris County’s largest towns. The local governing body there has introduced an ordinance for an emergency appropriation of more than $888,000 to cover severance costs of township workers.
The amount, $888,050, is what the township is obligated to pay this year to 17 employees, all but three of whom are police officers, according to township administrator Jasmine Lim. The employees, according to Lim, retired anytime between December 2009 and December 2011.
The payouts are for unused sick days, unused vacation days, and in one case, unused compensation time.
The appropriation ordinance in Parsippany, which will be voted on later this month, will help cover the payout costs, which range between $28,425 to $164,480 per person, according to township officials.
Christie and fellow Republicans have frequently called for sick leave reform legislation, but are currently at loggerheads with Democratic lawmakers about the amount. Christie has called for dropping the amount to zero.
In a statement, Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Christie, said the emergency move sought by Parsippany is more reason why reform of unused sick day payouts is so needed.
“This should just inflame the taxpayers of Parsippany and frighten taxpayers all over New Jersey because it will continue to happen until the Legislature agrees with us and puts a stop to such abuse,” Drewniak said. “To date, Democrats in the legislature have blocked our reforms on accumulated sick pay, caving in to public employee unions because they’d rather preserve union political support and cash than protect taxpayers.”
Democrats have called for a variety of proposals. Originally, they called for capping the unused sick day reimbursement at $15,000, which was later reduced to $7,500.
One bill, by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, would cap the unused sick time amount to $15,000, which could be used by departing employees to pay for post-retirement health insurance. No actual payouts would be granted under her legislation.
Township Mayor Jamie Barberio was not available for comment.