Chase says he’s still owed one more paycheck

IRVINGTON, NJ — Former police Chief Michael Chase said this week he still has not received the last paycheck owed to him by the township, according to the state Civil Service Commission.

Chase’s base salary was $6,558.28 every two weeks, before taxes. But he maintains he never received any of that money after Irvington Public Safety Director Tracy Bowers ordered him to turn in his badge, gun and other police equipment and paraphernalia in January 2016.

“I went up there to the Finance Director’s Office inside the Municipal Building in Civic Square on Friday, May 5, but Faheem Ra’Oof was not there,” said Chase on Tuesday, May 9. “I went up there two days in a row; the day before I sent him my latest letter and the day of the letter. He wasn’t there either time.”

Chase’s letter, dated Friday, May 5, is his latest correspondence addressed to Ra’Oof sent since Thursday, Feb. 23, when Civil Service Commission Chairman Robert Czech informed the township it had until Sunday, March 26, to repay Chase all the money it owes him. But Chase said one check still seems to be missing and that is preventing him from filing his 2017 federal and state income taxes properly.

“I can’t file my taxes properly, if I claim income that I never actually received,” said Chase on Monday, March 27. “It would be against the law to knowingly file an incorrect or inaccurate income tax form. My entire career in law enforcement was predicated on upholding the law, not breaking it. I don’t want to start breaking it in anyway, now that I’m retired.”

Chase’s latest letter comes as Mayor Tony Vauss’ municipal employee furlough and deferment plan began during the last week of April. The deferred payments are a new twist on the furlough and layoff plan the mayor announced Tuesday, April 4, as a way to close a $3.25 million hole in the township’s 2017 budget.

According to the new plan, municipal employees that usually get paid 26 times during an average year had the option of voting to “defer” that pay by accepting 24 bimonthly regular salary payments, instead of the normal 26 they would have ordinarily received in better fiscal times. All employees who accepted the deferment plan agreed to get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month for “about a year.”

Getting paid twice per month equals 24 full salary paychecks, instead of 26 reduced paychecks, due to mandatory no work days that included no pay at all. The goal was to lessen the impact of the furloughs that Vauss and Ra’Oof said were necessary to plug the hole in Irvington’s finances that a 2015 audit revealed.

According to Municipal Council President David Lyons, “The furlough system is going to be in place about a year — two days in 2017 and one day in 2018.” The employees being furloughed are different from those who agreed to the deferment.

“Even with the furloughs, it’s not going to offset the deficit,” said Lyons on Tuesday, May 2. “People are (angry) about the situation, but it’s better to have a job with furloughs than no job at all. I’m not happy about it either. I think things could have been done differently.”

According to a memo from Ra’Oof addressed to Business Administrator Musa Malik and Wally Ryglicki, the auditor hired to audit the township’s fiscal and financial records, there are two reasons the furloughs and layoffs this year were necessary: an unanticipated increase in expenses and the rising cost of health care.

Ra’Ooof also apparently never accounted for the money owed to Chase that the former chief said he never received. In a letter dated Thursday, Feb. 23, this year, the Civil Service Commission ordered the township to compensate Chase for the wages and salary he lost when after he was fired him, or else face $100 per day fines up to $100,000.

Vauss has made sure the township issued replacement checks and copies of the four paychecks totaling $26,233.12 that Chase was missing, in compliance with the state Civil Service Commission.

The township previously claimed that Chase was not fired and was paid, but that he had closed down his bank account and did not therefore receive direct deposits, and also did not receive physical checks mailed to him.