Town: No separation date for deputy chief
PHOTO BY ADAM ANIK
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Montclair Police deputy chief Tracy Frazzano is collecting a salary of $7,251 on a bi-weekly basis, though she left the department on Aug. 20 to become chief of police in Marco Island, Fla.
Montclair’s Director of Human Resources Sharyn Matthews said Frazzano, who started her new job in Florida on Sept. 3, is currently still collecting her annual salary of $185,096 using her accumulated benefit time. She has received four biweekly payments since she left in August, with the most recent of $7,251 received on Oct. 18, according to payroll records.
The amount still owed to Frazzano, and when she will be off the township payroll, is being withheld by township officials.
An official at the state department of pensions and benefits said they did not have Frazzano’s accumulated benefits time recorded, stating the employer should supply the amount of time she had accrued.
In most cases, accumulated sick- or benefits-time payouts are determined through a termination or separation agreement. The agreement documents financial payouts for accrued sick and vacation time not used by the employee and carried over from year to year, which are typically required to be paid by the township either in one lump sum or in installments upon the separation of the employee.
A first request for Frazzano’s termination agreement was denied by Matthews, not because she said no such agreement existed, but on the grounds that the agreement would be part of Frazzano’s personnel record. In response to a second request, Matthews then said that no separation agreement between the township and Frazzano existed, and that she was still on the payroll collecting her full salary in lieu of her benefits payout.
Further attempts to get Frazzano’s number of days accrued and the amount owed have also been denied by the township.
Although personnel records are generally exempt from public access, the state Open Public Records Act contains exceptions to that exemption. Specifically, an individual's name, title, position, salary, payroll record, length of service, date of separation, the reason for the separation and the amount and type of any pension received are public record.
Montclair Local’s request to township attorney Ira Karasick for the date of separation or the amount owed to Frazzano — arguing that even if Frazzano and the township have not separated yet, a final separation date based on the number of days of accumulated benefit time remaining exists — has remained unanswered.
Another OPRA request to the township custodian of records Holly Maykow was answered on Monday, Oct. 21, with, “There is no date of separation.”
A request to clarify that a future date of separation does not exist was not answered by Karasick.
Frazzano’s Marco Island salary was not immediately available, but the Florida town’s recruitment ad for chief position stated a salary between $105,000 and $120,000 with a 30 percent benefit allowance.
The New Jersey Police Benevolent Association did not return phone calls seeking comment.
An attorney from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, however, said he was not aware of a case in which a town employee was kept on the payroll after resigning to collect unused sick time.
According to Montclair’s 2019 township budget and its analysis of “compensated absence liability,” the current number of accrued sick and vacation days for all township employees is 241,648 hours. If every town employee were to leave today, the town would owe those employees $12.65 million. Police and fire employees topped the chart with 71,888 hours owed at a cost of $4.5 million for police, and 86,870 hours at $4.77 million for the fire department.
In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law capping the payouts at $15,000 for all new employees. He later vetoed a bill that would have capped all employees, old and new, at $15,000, saying he wanted the payouts to cease altogether.
Frazzano has been employed by the Montclair Police Department since Aug. 1, 1995.