Middletown OK's $250K Payout to Retiring Police Chief

The money was legally owed to pay for 40 years of unused sick and vacation time at the chief's 2014 pay scale.

Police Chief Robert Oches at a Middletown Township Committee meeting. File photo.
Police Chief Robert Oches at a Middletown Township Committee meeting. File photo.
The Middletown Township Committee authorized Monday a $249,338.88 payment to Police Chief Robert Oches that reflects 40 years worth of unused sick days, personal days, vacation pay and other contractual benefits.

The chief was owed this money through collective bargaining agreements that date back to 1974. Most of the benefits were accumulated prior to the township's 1996 imposition of a 150 day cap. 

His retirement is effective August 1, and once official paperwork is filed with Trenton, the township will begin the process of selecting a new police chief from among the township's three deputy chiefs. 

In a resolution, the members of the Township Committee registered their displeasure with the current system by putting forth a resolution decrying a system that puts "great hardship" on municipal officials who must craft budgets under the 2 percent cap, but also be prepared to disburse or borrow to satisfy "lavish" payouts to retiring employees. They called for passing a resolution calling upon the state legislature to eliminate or cap payment for unused sick and vacation time.  

They also pointed out that although unused sick and vacation time may be accumulated over many years at lower wages, payments are required to be made at rates established at the time of a public employee’s retirement, which is usually when they achieve their highest annual salary. 

"This isn't anything that reflects on the chief and his 40 years of service, the money is owed and the law requires us to vote," Mayor Stephanie Murray was quoted as saying in the Asbury Park Press. "It's wrong because it's accruing at present rates for time banked before many of us were born. It's an unsustainable, broken system."

Middletown was prepared for the chief's retirement with money put aside in the budget, said Township Administrator Tony Mercantante. 

The chief's unusually long career in Middletown "is impressive" said Mercantante. "There are not a lot of people who put 40 years of their lives into one place," he said.  

But it is also an anomaly these days, and there are no more longtime Middletown employees who will be owed a similar payout of accumulated benefits, he said. 

Gary Junstrom July 10, 2014 at 08:40 AM
This is not about the merits of his service. It's about two things. The absurdity of getting paid for unused sick days and getting paid at today's rate for days from 1974. I get 5 sick days a year. If I don't use them I lose them. that is fair and sensible. In the union world, common sense never figures into anything. It's just how much they can squeeze out of the taxpayers.
Nephews Skateshop + Gallery July 10, 2014 at 08:55 AM
Gary, I agree with you 100% on this. The system is flawed and contract negotiation by townships has to be stronger. It's a shame that unions get whatever they want from municipalities.
Gary Junstrom July 10, 2014 at 10:31 AM
There was an article recently about the 2% cap on contracts that said it doesn't really matter how hard the towns bargain, it is up to the arbitrators and the courts. That's why unless the system is changed and collective bargaining for public sector unions ended, the taxpayers are doomed. Even FDR didn't believe in collective bargaining for public sector unions.
deirdrebest July 21, 2014 at 11:20 AM
Most people have no idea what the life of a police officer is like. What their families go through not knowing if their loved one is coming home that day and the cost of what it takes to protect & serve. Police see everything we pretend doesn't exist in everyday life and they have to live with it. Its not a great system and should be changed but I hope he can enjoy his retirement and live out the rest of his life in happiness and peace with his family. Deirdre Best
beach lover July 22, 2014 at 11:13 PM
He was a cop in Middletown Township, not Camden, jeez.. The current structure is completely unsustainable. I look at what people pay in property taxes for the privilege of living in Middletown and just shake my head. He deserves to get a good pension, but this is insane. ..


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