As reported by nj.com, when they were laid off by the Newark Police Department last year, Juan Velarde and Stephanie Diaz thought they could make do, at least for a while, with unemployment checks and the $3,900 they were owed in back pay from the city. The couple celebrated the birth of their first child on December 30, and their back pay, under the officer’s contract with the city, was due in just two days. Nearly four months later, the check still has not come.
Of the 162 officers laid off last year, not one has received a final check for unused vacation or compensatory time, said Jimmy Stewart, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police. Retired Newark police officers are also waiting for their checks from the city, according to the Superior Officers Association, which filed a labor grievance alleging Newark is late on an $870,000 tab it owes eight retirees.
Newark does not dispute that it owes the officers money, but a city spokeswoman said officials are waiting on approval from the police department to make the payments. The $870,000 owed to the retired officers “requires further review” by police and city officials to ensure the amounts are accurate. SOA President Captain John Chrystal scoffed at the city’s suggestion the department is still reviewing payouts for retirees. “Everybody from the commanding officers to the police director has signed off on this,” he said. “So how much do you have to review? What’s the holdup?”
The city’s contract with the FOP required payouts for unused vacation and compensatory time to be sent by January 1, a month after layoffs were enacted, Stewart said. The 162 officers were dismissed as part of the city’s public works purge to close an $83 million deficit last year. Several of the laid-off officers have rallied against the city for failing to meet the January 1 deadline.
“I’ve been calling for the last month and they always forward my call somewhere else,” said Velarde. “We pretty much need this money. I got a newborn and I’m only getting $500 a week for unemployment.” Velarde said he is owed $900 from Newark, and his girlfriend, who was also laid off, is owed $3,000.
The SOA filed a labor grievance on behalf of eight supervisory officers who retired between October 2010 and February, claiming Department of Labor regulations require Newark to compensate retirees for their unused time off on the day they leave the department. The eight retirees have also filed disorderly persons charges against Darlene Tate, director of Newark’s office of management and budget, who they claim is responsible for the late payouts. Under the state criminal code, if an employer fails to pay compensation or benefits within 30 days after the payout is due the “employee of the corporation who is responsible for the violation commits a disorderly persons offense.”