GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Two police captains agreed to keep quiet and not sue the township in exchange for nearly $30,000 each in a deal local elected officials say was arranged without their knowledge — and without the approval state law requires — by the former township manager who had passed the officers over for a promotion.
Galloway Township Council members said the agreements might be invalid because they didn’t vote, and that they will do so retroactively, if necessary.
Separation agreements for former township police Capts. Joseph P. Davies and William Hambrecht show they received $29,372.80 and $29,455.45, respectively, paid in biweekly increments akin to a paycheck, even though they had already stopped working.
In return, they agreed to keep any negative opinions about their employment to themselves and to refrain from suing the township, or else to pay a $10,000 fine, according to the documents. The Press of Atlantic City obtained the agreements through a state Open Public Records Act request.
The documents state that Davies and Hambrecht, who declined comment for this story, would not be entitled to those payments “absent the execution and non-revocation of this agreement.”
They also cashed in unused sick, vacation and personal time, as provided by their pre-existing employment contracts negotiated years before their retirement. Davies got $25,546 in unused time; Hambrecht got $33,907, according to the separation agreements.
Hambrecht decided in February to retire after 30 years on the force. His retirement took effect in June but wasn’t made public until July. Davies had 23 years’ law enforcement experience — 17 of them in Galloway — when he left in April 2009. Both officers were among eight up for the police chief’s position after former Chief Peter Romanelli retired.
Jill Gougher, who was township manager at the time, recommended 15-year department veteran Patrick Moran, then a lieutenant, as Romanelli’s successor. Gougher, along with former labor attorney Karen Williams and former human resources director George Wackenheim, also arranged the agreements with Davies and Hambrecht.
Council members approved the police chief hiring in a unanimous vote, but didn’t know about the agreements with Davies or Hambrecht until recently, said all but two members of Township Council during or since the events involved. Former Councilmen Bill Ackerman and Al DeSimone could not be reached for comment.
Culpability questions linger
The separation agreements’ provisions protecting Galloway from future litigation are standard, but skipping a council vote is not, according to William Kearns, general counsel to the state League of Municipalities.
Neither agreement obtained council approval, despite state guidelines requiring it.
In Galloway and other towns that operate under the council-manager form of government, township managers arrange contracts “subject to the approval of the municipal council,” according to the Faulkner Act.
Neither agreement appears on council meeting agendas posted on the township website and dating back to before the officers’ retirements. Council members also said they did not know about them until The Press of Atlantic City requested documents related to Hambrecht’s retirement after it was announced in July.
By then, Gougher was no longer township manager. She is now the chief financial officer in Galloway, formerly having held both posts.
The township hired Roger Tees, who ran Pleasantville’s Urban Enterprise Zone until he started as Galloway’s manager in June.
Hiring Tees allowed the municipality to establish “checks and balances for the township’s two highest positions,” alleviate Gougher’s burdensome workload and gain a manager with economic development experience, Deputy Mayor Don Purdy said.
“I haven’t been given any specific answer as to the motivation behind it,” Tees said of the agreements Monday. “I’m reading it as a waiver of rights against future claims, and there seems to be an agreed-upon settlement price.”
Gougher said she felt the agreements would allow Moran to make changes within the ranks as he felt necessary without criticism.
Davies’ departure saves nearly $400,000 through 2012, but that would have happened regardless of the agreements, according to Moran, who said he was denied access to the agreements.
“I was only recently able to view them as a result of the OPRA request (The Press) filed,” he said.
Gougher declined comment on whether either captain had indicated they intended to sue or disparage the township.
Tees declined to comment on any potential disciplinary action against Gougher.
“At this point, it’s water under the bridge; we deal with it. But I never want it to happen in this way again,” Purdy said. “I don’t want to say I was sleeping, but you think the township manager is doing the right thing. I’m not saying (Gougher) did it intentionally. .... I think she definitely did a good job when she was in there, but when you get busy, you miss things.”
Secrecy could invalidate contracts
Council members said they didn’t know about the separation agreements; Gougher claims otherwise.
Gougher said all council members knew about Davies’ agreement, but only some knew about the Hambrecht deal.
“This was during a time when we were extremely busy with budget and advertising for (a) new manager. I did not realize I didn’t follow up with a memo to them,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Press.
Mayor Keith Hartman, in his fifth year on council, said he did not know about the agreements and did not believe other council members knew either.
“It never made it to council in private session, open session, in any discussions,” Hartman said. “My personal opinion is it should have been put in front of council.”
Purdy and other current and former council members said the same thing.
Officials also said they will not know whether council will retroactively approve the agreements to ensure their validity until getting advice from Township Solicitor Michael Blee.
Blee declined comment on whether he would recommend the agreements be approved or whether a vote would be scheduled.
Gougher said council did not vote publicly because the township’s former labor attorney Karen Williams did not advise it in Davies’ case and Gougher followed the same protocol for Hambrecht.
Williams, now a federal judge, told The Press through a former Williams Law Firm PC colleague, John Hegarty, that her new post prevents her from commenting.
Blee declined questions about why attorneys did not advise a council vote on the agreements to Williams.
Current labor counsel Jean Cipriani did not return calls placed to her office or cell phone.
Wackenheim said he would not discuss more specifics about the situation without clearance from the township. Tees declined to give that Monday.
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