BARNEGAT – Township and police officials had their first contract negotiation meetings since last year, an official said. Meanwhile, Township Committee members discussed overtime and a change in how the police handle disciplinary matters.
Negotiators from the township and from the police sat down to two meetings on April 7 and 8, Committeeman Alfonso Cirulli said. The details of the discussion were not made public, but he said that they are still working on finding common ground.
The officers have been working without a contract since 2013. The last negotiation meeting was in August of 2016.
At a Township Committee meeting in December, officers came out to demand negotiations after a session in November had been cancelled by the town. Township officials had cancelled it because, they said at the time, there were no new developments. The town had made a proposal, and were waiting for police to accept or make a counteroffer. The police said that the town proposal was insufficient, and they wanted a contract for rank and file officers that matched exactly what superior officers were working with.
Meanwhile, the amount of overtime logged by police officers has been consistently lower than previous years, officials said.
Committeeman John Novak gives monthly reports on police activity at the Township Committee meeting. He said that there had been 1,349 calls in the month of March.
“They’re working without a contract, in a headquarters that is far less than optimal,” he said. Despite the number of calls, there were lower overtime costs.
In January, the amount of overtime was reduced by 45 percent of what the overtime was for January of 2016, he reported. In February, it was down 53 percent from February of 2016. In March, it was down 73 percent from March of 2016.
“Not only do the men and women of the department serve us very well, they’re serving the finance department very well,” he said.
These figures continue a downward trend in overtime expenditures.
The department spent $295,375 in overtime in 2015, according to township records. That figure was down again in 2016. It had been $171,879 as of Nov. 20, when figures were collected and released at a December meeting.
The Township Committee also introduced a measure that would require the governing body to be involved in any discipline decisions regarding an employee of the police department.
The ordinance, introduced at the April 4 meeting, reads:
“When any police employee is the subject of any internal affairs investigation, the township administrator and the Township Committee shall be notified at the completion of the investigation, and prior to any disciplinary action being taken. The Township Committee shall review the chief’s disciplinary recommendation, but the Township Committee shall have the final say as to what the discipline is to be.”
The second hearing would be at a future meeting.
Cirulli explained that there were instances several years ago in which an officer was disciplined for an infraction, and the governing body found out about it from other sources.
“We’re not trying to interfere with the police,” he said. “We want to make sure the loophole is closed.”
The ordinance was not crafted to make the committee micromanage the chief in terms of handling his own officers, Cirulli said.
“We would take the recommendation of the chief. If we feel strongly about something, we would interject,” he said. Otherwise, it would be an informational meeting.
Cirulli said that Chief Richard Dugan had approved this measure before it was introduced. Dugan declined comment on this story.