ATLANTIC CITY - Rebecca Seabrook didn't have much time to prepare for life as an unemployed single mother.
The city police officer was on maternity leave when she learned earlier this week that she was one of 40 police officers losing their jobs.
"I wasn't on the original list," Seabrook, 29, explained Thursday, as she and the other laid-off officers turned in their equipment at the department compound off Albany Avenue.
Now, the Holy Spirit High School graduate, who is expecting a girl Jan. 1, will have to pay $600 a month for health insurance. The job she dreamed of as a little girl growing up in Absecon is gone.
"It's awful," she sobbed. "When I go to the hospital, I won't have benefits. I don't know how I'm going to support my daughter."
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Mayor Lorenzo Langford remained overseas Thursday, wrapping up a "working vacation" in China as 93 citywide layoffs took effect. His flight was scheduled to arrive either Thursday night or early this morning, just as the last day for those lost employees came to an end, spokesman Kevin Hall said. Many questioned how the mayor could leave last week just as 11th-hour negotiations to save jobs were supposed to be taking place.
"This was something that was already planned," Business Administrator Michael Scott said of the trip's timing. "It's something that was already worked out and something that can also be very beneficial to this city."
"I know the city is unsafe," said Troy Maven Sr., 29, who was laid off from the midnight to 8 a.m. patrol. "The city is basically telling criminals, ‘Come do what you want.'"
Maven, who lives in Egg Harbor Township with his wife and two children, now says his home faces foreclosure and his family will likely lose one of their cars.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office is trying to fill the holes. Prosecutor Ted Housel said Thursday that he would assign several of his detectives to the city on a routine basis.
The Langford administration's only representative at the compound Thursday morning was Public Safety Director Christine Petersen, who refused comment entering and exiting the building.
Inside, she attempted to address those leaving, but as soon as she took the floor, the ousted officers walked outside, where media was gathered. They went back in when she was done.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever done in my career," Deputy Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said after addressing the laid-off officers.
He was criticized by some for not fighting for the jobs. But Jubilee said he did fight, just not publicly. The layoffs were the fault of everyone involved in the negotiations, he said.
"We were all in it trying to get it settled and it didn't get settled," he said. "And those 40 people are the ones who suffered because of our inability to get it done. We failed. We failed those 40 people and we failed the 20 (lost to the June layoffs) before that."
PBA President David Davidson Jr. felt some responsibility as well. Not only to those he represents, but for his son, Philip, 26, who lost his job Thursday.
"I'm proud of my son," he said. "At the same time, it rips my heart out. As the union president, I feel in some way I let him down, and that hurts even more."
The father embraced his son for a moment, then watched as the younger man went inside the compound to turn in his badge and gun. He then turned away, wiping his eyes.
"It's tough to figure out what to say to guys in that position," said Fire Chief Dennis Brooks, who visited the city's six stations twice Wednesday to talk to the 30 firefighters he lost in the layoffs. "Nobody that's worked in this department has ever been in that position. They've been taught survival skills here, and now they've got to use them for a different reason."
Scott said he knew it was a difficult day.
"It wasn't a pleasant day by a long shot," he said. "These are people with families that they have a responsibility for."
But he quickly reverted to criticism of the city's unions, insisting that if they had agreed to open their contracts and renegotiate, the jobs could have been saved.
"There's still time for them to open their contract," he said. "We could work towards January. If they open them, we might be able to bring some of these jobs back."
The unions have argued that opening the contracts could lead to a substantial loss in benefits they negotiated in 2007.
Asked why the city did not make efforts to cut their provisional employees, a constant request of the unions, Scott said the savings "would not have been enough money to meet the requirement we had to meet."
The city is faced with a $10 million to $15 million budget deficit. State officials insist the resort must cede control of at least some aspects of its financial management in order to receive assistance. Last-minute negotiations between the two sides gave hope to city labor leaders that the jobs could be saved, but the help never came.
The laid-off firefighters turned in their gear during their regular shifts this week. The administration summoned police officers to the compound Thursday morning to return all department-issued equipment.
Some arrived with children. Some came with family members who still wear the department uniform. The equipment tying them to the department was held in stacks or placed in boxes and bags. Justin Draper used an empty Huggies diaper box to return the city's property.
"I wanted them to remember that some of us getting laid off do have kids," said Draper, 31, whose son was born three months ago. "We have mortgages like everyone else. We have car payments like everyone else. Now we have no jobs, unlike everyone else."
His ties to the city are deep. He worked the Beach Patrol for 12 years, then on the force for three. He and his wife live here, with a son.
Fire Union President Angelo DeMaio also lives in the city. He said he worries about his neighbors and friends living in a town with 30 fewer firefighters and 60 fewer police officers, counting the 20 layoffs that department already had in June.
"We're not trying to promote this doom and gloom, but people need to know and they need to be more careful," he said. "We're going to be slower. It's not to scare anyone, but maybe that will spark the public's support for us. And maybe that will help."
Even before the cuts, an average of two of the department's 11 companies were closed per shift. Now, that could climb to as many as five, DeMaio said.
On Thursday, that would include Engine 4, which the night before revived a man at Tony's Baltimore Grill at Atlantic and Iowa avenues.
"I'm sure that there is no question that the woman whose husband it was is so very thankful that they were so close," said Cheryll Huffnagle, one of the restaurant's owners.
As the firefighters left the scene, they made sure to let those at the restaurant know that the engine that responded so quickly would be closing Thursday because of the layoffs. The closest engines now would be at least a mile away.
That would delay response time by "at least two minutes," Brooks said. "In those situations, every minute counts."
The whole thing was a little surreal for former Officer Joe Procopio, 23, who left Arizona State - where he had a full academic scholarship - to join the city's force three years ago. He thought police work came with job security.
"At this point it's starting to sink in, as I'm applying to other places," he said.
Jubilee said he wants residents and visitors to know "the Atlantic City Police Department is going to continue to get the job done."
But Jubilee still hopes to change the situation. "I'm going to work every day to get each and every one of these officers back."
The Press of Atlantic City has obtained a list of Atlantic City firefighters and police officers targeted for layoffs on Thursday.
Below are the names of the city employees and their annual salaries, according to the list. The savings the city is projecting to see for this year are far less than the total salaries coming off of the payroll because the majority of the salaries have already been paid throughout the previous nine months of 2010.
Ismail M. Abdussamad $58,741
Neil A. Anderson Jr $60,503
Gennaro M. Basso $60,503
Martin G. Basso $58,741
Dominic R. Berry $56,590
Bryan J. Berthold $61,090
Andrew J. Biscieglia $58,741
Steve Blair $58,741
Alex Cadavid $63,440
Vincent M. Carleo $58,741
Salvatore Cavalieri $61,090
Dennis T. Coaxum $58,741
Keith J. Coursey Jr $58,741
Stephen J. Duran $62,265
Thomas C. Flanagan III $63,440
Juan R. Flores $59,915
James Gillespie III $62,249
Robert D. Gragg $62,852
William J. Hamilton Jr $60,503
Joshua Hoag $58,741
Nicola M. Knox $64,709
Andrew S. Kyle $58,741
Broer D. Linblad IV $58,741
Andrew J. Lubaczewski $59,915
Jomo K. Lyles-Belton $95,203
Michael A. Mccabe $58,741
Ranon K. Mclaughlin $58,741
Sven A. Peltonen $61,684
Kyle L. Pollock $62,265
Latoya N. Watson $58,741
Total Firefighters $1,841,845
Ferdinand Berrios-Rodriquez $58,735
Michael E. Braxton $58,735
Joseph M. Caprio $64,021
Darrell J. Catanio $65,005
Marquay L. Cherry $64,021
Philip R. Davidson $58,735
Justin C. Draper $64,021
Kyle D. Eisenbeis $58,735
Victor Garofalo $58,557*
Alberto E. Gonzalez $62,259
Brian A. Hambrecht $66,955
Avette A. Harper $62,259
Amir S. Hughes $58,735
James M. Hurley $62,259
Christopher L. Inman $65,005
George A. King $58,735
Eugene A. Laielli $68,905
Kevin Law $62,846
Christopher L. Lodico $58,735
Darrin P. Lorady $64,021
Ann Martin $57,304*
Roberto Matos $58,735
Steven A. Melchiore $60,497
Natane A. Naylor $65,005
Marinela L. Pali $58,735
Joseph M. Procopio $62,259
Cecil J. Randall III $64,021
Dawn J. Riggs $68,905
Jose Rodriguez $53,600*
Daniel J. Roe $62,259
Rebecca Seabrook $61,372*
Michael S. Shafman $64,021
Syed A. Shah $61,084
Christopher D. Smith $70,855
Charles J. Stuart $62,259
Josh L. Vadell $65,005
Innocenzo J. Visceglia $65,005
Eric J. Wessler $62,259
Sterling Wheaten $64,021
Henry M. White III $64,021
*Salary figure is from 2009.
Total police $2,433,949
Total police and firefighters $4,275,794
LANGFORD'S PROPOSED LAYOFFS At a Glance
- Projected savings: $1.3 million
- Police officers: 40
- Firefighters: 30
- Health and Human Services: 9
- Licensing and Inspections: 9
- Public Works: 3
- Administration: 2
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