Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lawsuit seeks access to police "extra-duty" salary.

09/07/13 Update:   The case has been scheduled for a hearing before Hon. Mary C. Jacobson, A.J.S.C. in Trenton on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 11 a.m.  The signed Order to Show Cause is on-line here.
 When you see a police car protecting a construction site on a public roadway, the taxpayers are probably not paying that officer's salary.  Instead, the construction or utility company pays the police agency for the officer's salary and for use of the police car and the agency in turn pays the salary over to the officer. This is known as "extra-duty" and can be a lucrative source of income for local police officers.

I requested to know the amount of "extra-duty" pay a particular Ewing Township (Mercer County) police officer received during 2012, but the Township denied my request.  The Township's position is that "payment for voluntary, off-duty work paid by a third party does not involve the expenditure of public funds" and is not a public record.

With the help of attorney Richard M. Gutman of Montclair, I filed suit.  I contend that "extra-duty" work is different than "off-duty" work.  An example of "off-duty" work is a police officer who has a part-time job working, in civilian clothes, as a bouncer in a nightclub.  Clearly, the public would have no right to know the officer's income from the nightclub.  But, payments made through the Township's payroll system to police officers who provide uniformed, law enforcement services to third parties should be considered a "payroll record" as defined by N.J.S.A. 47:1A-10 of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  This is especially true because unlike "off-duty" work, "extra-duty" work is is covered by the Township's worker's compensation benefits, State accidental disability and death benefits.  The brief and certification filed in Paff v. Township of Ewing, Docket No. MER-L-1758-13, are on-line here.

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