MULLICA TOWNSHIP — A large crowd of supporters came out Tuesday night to ask the Township Committee to protect the job of Paul “P.J.” Sarraf, a veteran police officer who was suspended with pay and intent to dismiss by Chief John Thompson on Sept. 17 because he cannot work late shifts.

Sarraf will get an administrative hearing Friday and has requested it be open to the public. It will be 10 a.m. at Township Hall, 4528 S. White Horse Pike.

Paul Sarraf has been advised by his PBA attorney not to comment publicly, his wife has said. Thompson, who was not at the meeting Tuesday night, also has declined to comment on the situation.

Several people spoke about how Sarraf has helped them over his 19-year career in the township. They said his need to work between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. because of sleep apnea and other conditions should be accommodated.

Brenda Cramer, a 50-year-resident, said Sarraf once calmed her down and kept her from jumping off her roof in a panic after she put out a chimney fire with salt.

“He calmed me down and had me sit on the roof until the firetruck got there with a ladder to get me down,” said Cramer. “He had me laughing by the time the firetruck got there. This is the man you want to throw away.”

Mayor Chris Silva said the committee’s hands are tied by state law.

“The day-to-day operations (of the Police Department) are the exclusive province of the chief of police,” said Silva in explaining why the committee cannot intervene. He said its only power is to hold an administrative hearing, which it is doing.

Silva said the committee found a hearing officer who has a reputation for being fair, and that’s about all it can do.

Resident Michael St. Amour said the answer may be to move back to a system in which police choose shifts based on seniority. That was the system before Thompson became chief, he said, and it was only changed to try to hold onto younger officers.

“Your turnover is terrible,” St. Amour said. “If you are not looking at it, you should.”

Sarraf may lose his job and the ability to collect a full pension and benefits because of medical conditions that prevent him from working overnight, his wife, Barbara, has said.

Paul Sarraf has been a police officer in the township for about 19 years, according to his wife, and does not qualify for medical disability because doctors tell him he can do all aspects of the job from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Thompson had told him his need to work day shifts cannot be accommodated, Barbara Sarraf said in June.

At that time, her husband’s supporters packed another committee meeting, demanding the township accommodate him.

Paul Sarraf had been working day shift until his suspension, and will file an Americans with Disabilities Act claim, his wife has said.

Many speakers at the June meeting said they felt the problem was personal animosity between Thompson and Sarraf.

Both men live and work in the township.

Barbara Sarraf has said her husband will only get back what he paid into the pension system if he loses his job before 20 years on the job. If he works for 20 years, he can collect 50 percent of his pension payments upon retirement, but no health benefits. Only if he works for 25 years can he collect his full retirement and get medical benefits, according to Barbara.

Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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