ATLANTIC CITY — Former city police Officer Josh Vadell, who was shot in the head while on duty in 2016, is one of 10 officers suing the city and the state for not paying more than $900,000 worth of unused sick time.
In March 2017, the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees Atlantic City, issued a notice that, among other changes, sick leave payouts would be capped at $15,000 between June 7, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2021.
The DCA did not respond to a request for comment.
The plaintiffs claim the changes to the contract were not collectively bargained.
“(The city) reaped the benefits of (these officers) coming into work every day,” the lawsuit states, “and not requiring the payment of sick time and overtime to cover (the officers) if they called out.”
Vadell’s accumulated sick time amounts to more than $65,000, according to the lawsuit.
At the time Vadell was shot, he was covered under a collective bargaining agreement stating he would be compensated for all unused sick time when he retired, according to the lawsuit. Vadell retired in May 2017 at age 30 as a result of his injuries.
“Atlantic City had a contract with these officers. In no other setting in America is a party just permitted to void a contract. If you want to change the rules, change them moving forward, not retroactively,” said Charles J. Sciarra, attorney for Vadell.
Over the years, unused sick time payouts have been a hotly debated issue in New Jersey. Former Gov. Chris Christie referred to the payments as “boat checks.”
Atlantic City had set aside more than $7.6 million in an escrow fund to pay for accumulated sick-leave liabilities, according to the lawsuit.
Other officers, such as Edward Riegel, who was on the force for 25 years, and Eugene Maier, who was on the force for 26 years, say they accumulated sick time amounts of more than $100,000, the lawsuit states.
Earlier collective bargaining agreements, including one that expired Dec. 31, 2015, provided for paid accumulated sick time upon retirement.
After years of financial mismanagement, the city’s municipal operations were taken over by the DCA in 2016. The state was given the authority to “unilaterally modify collective bargaining agreements.”
Other officers suing the city and state are Andy Pronovost, Jerry String, David Madamba, Lonell Jones, Joseph Iacovone, Constant Hackney and Michael Gavin.