GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The Restore Galloway Team Democratic council ticket is throwing support behind the township's Police Department and union after a judge's recent ruling ordered the township to resume paying officers during their military drill training.
The team said in a statement this week that they understand it is an attempt by Police Chief Pat Moran to save money for taxpayers by not paying officers while they are attending National Guard drills, but they don't feel this is the place to do that.
"We support the PBA and the arbitrator's decision that this violates the officers' collective bargaining agreement. This should have been addressed in contract negotiations and not dragged through the courts, incurring more legal fees for a township that has already spent millions in legal fees over the past ten years," the statement said.
Township officials said they will appeal Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Raymond A. Batten's ruling last week that upheld an arbitrator's January 2013 award to continue paying police officers while they attend weekend military drills.
The candidates stated that the five affected officers are protecting Galloway residents both in the police force and in the military, and should not lose a benefit that has been paid for over 20 years without a collective bargaining agreement.
Restore Galloway Team candidate Cliff Sudler, who is 23-year veteran in the Atlantic County Sherriff's Department, said Friday that the township should continue paying for drill time because it is in the Police Department's contract.
Sudler's employer does not pay officers for military drill time leave, he said. Officers in this department who must attend military drills are typically off duty on the weekends, but if they must miss work they have to use their own vacation time, Sudler said.
"If they're (Galloway Township) looking to really save money there's other ways of saving money. To go to court and spend more tax money to appeal this doesn't make sense. They have a ruling now and they've been practicing this all along," Sudler said.
When a policy to stop payment for National Guard drill time was implemented in January 2012, cost savings were a factor, but there is now the belief that it is not legal to pay for it, Moran said.
Moran said that the township's estimated cost to cover military drill time leave was about $165,000 and included military pay, weekend drill and overtime pay to officer who were brought in to fill the absent officer's position. With one weekend drill per month and with 12-hour shift schedules, the township pays at least two officers to fill in for the one attending National Guard drill, he said.
Under Civil Service code police officers who work in departments governed under the Civil Service Commission cannot be paid for inactive duty training, such as weekend drills.
There is no ruling, however, as to compensation for non-civil service departments such as Galloway Township's department.
Township attorneys have said there is no authorization to pay officers for this time under state statute.
"If it's found to be legal to pay the officers we will abide by the ruling," Moran said.
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