STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - Mayor John McMenamin announced Monday that officials are considering laying off five police officers and several public works employees because of budgetary constraints.
Meanwhile, the township is negotiating a new contract its Police Department.
"This is not a contract-negotiation tactic. Nothing is definite. By law I have to give them 30 days' notice," McMenamin said, adding that the pending decision is not personal or political.
Since taking office in 2009, McMenamin has been accused of interfering with the Police Department. He was accused by members of the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police and police chiefs from nearby municipalities of illegally meddling with day-to-day department operations. McMenamin's interference with the department includes painting unmarked vehicles doors' white, changing the officer's dress code and eliminating overtime for administration.
He said the township has given police officers the option to take one day off a month as a furlough day. The Policemen's Benevolent Association local has not agreed to have its members take furlough days.
"Then we wouldn't have any layoffs, but we have a lot people that are disgruntled about furlough. If it was me on the other side, I would take the furlough day once a month," said McMenamin, a retired township police officer.
He said that laying off police is a difficult decision for him to make as a former officer. He added that he is pushing hard for the officers who can retire to submit their resignation and that they will be given an incentive package.
"We are trying to do everything we can on the back end of this, as far as giving retiring officers that lump-sum payment for personal and vacation time. We're not looking to hurt these officers. We're looking to get them back as soon as we can," he said.
But Stuart Alterman, attorney for the Stafford Township PBA Local 297, said the township wants to intimidate the PBA and police officers during contract negotiations by forcing furloughs.
"What they want to do is negotiate the contract in public. Jim Moran, the township administrator, has lied to us at the bargaining table and engaged in bad-faith negotiations," Alterman said.
Moran did not return repeated calls for comment Monday.
Alterman said he requested township financial records going back three years in December and January and has not received them. Alterman requested audited and unaudited financial statements, trial balance sheet through the end of 2009 and to date.
"Under the interest arbitration statute, we are entitled to these documents," he said.
"If it's not personal or political, then what he needs to do - if he knew what to do as an elected official - is explain, line by line, what is going on with the budget," Alterman said of McMenamin.
Alterman said he does not believe there is a shortage of cash in Stafford Township.
"If there was a major budget shortfall, he would lay it out for us. They won't explain what's going on with the township's finances. At the end of the day, we won't be intimidated by their naive attempts," he said.
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