As reported by, police officers sent a message to Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. and Township Council members Monday: Don’t touch our retiree’s health insurance.

“This is way past midstream,” said Don Rowley, a Berkeley officer who is president of Local 237 of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “I have members that have been retired for over 20 years, and now they’re being asked to take a reduction in their health insurance or pay more for it? This is outrageous.”

Rowley and other current and retired officers came to the meeting to protest a proposal to have police retirees begin paying for their health insurance. Currently, retired officers pay nothing for health insurance. Amato said the maximum payment would have been $147.10 a month for a family plan for the most comprehensive insurance offered to retirees.

Interim Township Administrator Frederick C. Ebenau said the cost for single retirees would have been $59 a month.

Amato said the proposal could have saved the township $200,000. The township’s cost for retiree health benefits is $2,142,154 annually, Ebenau said.

“The reason for initially looking into this was to help the overall taxpayers to stop the outrageous increase in cost to provide health care,” Ebenau said.

Some retired officers received letters in the mail recently advising them about the proposed change. Amato said the letters should not have been mailed out before township officials had a chance to discuss the change with union members.

“We are trying to get a handle on health care costs,” the mayor said. “We were going to meet with the unions to discuss this. The letters should not have gone out. It was putting the cart before the horse.”

But Rowley said it is unfair for the township to suddenly require payments for health care in “midstream” for officers who in most cases receive much smaller pensions than those who have retired more recently.

The measure was expected to be discussed at the council’s caucus meeting but was pulled from the agenda before the meeting started.

Township Council members on Monday night seemed to have little interest in raising health contributions for retired officers.

“I’m one person up here, but I’d never vote for this,” said Councilman L Thomas Grosse Jr., who is a detective in the Toms River police department. “We will not screw you.”

Councilman John Bacchione agreed.

“I am not in law enforcement, but I would not vote for it either,” Bacchione said.

Proposed change to health plan

  • The health benefits would have remained free if retired officers selected the NJ Direct 15 plan instead of the NJ Direct 10 plan.  
  • Interim Township Administrator Frederick C. ​Ebenau said the difference is a $15 co-pay for the NJ Direct 15 plan, compared to a $10 co-pay for the NJ Direct 10 plan, and also $25 additional for each emergency room visit under the NJ Direct 15 plan.
  • There is also a higher ceiling for co-pays under the NJ Direct 15 plan, Ebenau said.

Health benefits reform and pension reform are two major issues faced by members of law enforcement throughout the State of New Jersey, both active and retired. And as long as the State continues to face a budget funding crisis, attempts by state and local governments to institute reforms in these two areas are likely to persist.


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Photo of Michael DeRose Michael DeRose

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey…

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey, the Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of various labor unions and their members. Michael has extensive experience defending and fighting for members of law enforcement and other public employees facing adverse disciplinary action, such as termination or suspension from employment. He also frequently argues before New Jersey’s Appellate Division on behalf of his clients.

A large portion of his practice is also devoted to contract negotiations on behalf of union clients, representing such clients in grievance arbitration/ contract disputes, and otherwise advising union leaders on labor and employment matters.  Michael also has significant experience in the realm of interest arbitration on behalf of the firm’s law enforcement and firefighter unions. As a result of the firm’s robust labor and employment practice, Michael regularly appears before various state agencies, such as the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, the State Health Benefits Commission, and NJ PERC. In addition to representing labor unions and active employees, Michael also represents retirees before the Division of Pensions in disability retirement applications, both ordinary and accidental disability retirement, in pension forfeiture actions, and in other miscellaneous pension disputes. He also counsels private business and their principals in contract and employment law, in addition to representing their interests in civil litigation. Michael has a track record of obtaining favorable outcomes for his clients and treats each everyone of them on an individual and particularized basis in accordance with their needs.

Before joining the firm in August of 2015, Michael was an associate counsel at a civil litigation firm out in Trenton, New Jersey, where he principally focused his practice around employment law and tort claims litigation. Prior to that, he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Honorable F. Patrick McManimon, Mercer County Vicinage, from September of 2012 to August of 2013, where he attained significant experience in the realm of alternative dispute resolution having mediated well-over one-hundred cases, primarily related to commercial and residential landlord/ tenant disputes and contract/ business litigation. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2012 after graduating from the Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. In 2007, he earned his Bachelor of the Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Kean University where he was a member of the Kean University baseball team and vice president of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Michael is admitted to the New Jersey State Bar, the United States Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, and is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.