MULLICA TOWNSHIP — A month after the current police chief was in discussions to leave his post, the Township Committee on Tuesday approved increasing his salary.
The amendment to Chief John Thompson’s contract covers 2016 through 2020. The chief’s retroactive and new salary amounts were not released.
Prior to the changes, Thompson’s contract was scheduled to end next year, and the length of his current contract was not extended, Committeewoman Kristi Hanselmann said.
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Prior to the raise, Thompson was the lowest paid police chief in Atlantic County at $113,500, Hanselmann said. The average police chief in the county, excluding Atlantic City, makes $144,793, she said.
Even though it is five-person committee, the police measures on the agenda passed by a vote of 2-1.
Hanselmann, director of revenue and finance, and Deputy Mayor Larry Riffle voted yes. Committeeman James Brown voted no. New Committeeman Bruce Crowe, who was sworn in Tuesday, abstained. Mayor Christopher Silva, whose son-in-law is second-in-command police Capt. Brian Zeck, also abstained.
Last month, Silva said a complaint had been filed against Thompson last year, and under the state attorney general’s rules, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office investigated and declined to take action. Now, the township is required to do its own investigation and is using an outside investigator, Silva said.
The township opened an internal affairs investigation against Thompson, according to a resolution to approve a settlement agreement with the chief that was on the committee’s agenda last month but was pulled from voting at the last minute. The resolution spurred rumors that Thompson was being removed from his job.
“The Press has reported that I’m being forced to retire by the township. This is not true. If I, and when I, elect to retire, it will be my choice,” said Thompson in a statement read by Hanselmann after the meeting.
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Thompson’s possible retirement was not discussed during the meeting.
Eighteen officers have left the township police force during the past 10 years, Hanselmann said, adding she did not want the department to be used by younger officers as a stepping stone with the goal of landing employment with other police departments.
Also Tuesday, the committee voted to amend Zeck’s contract so the rank of captain would not be able to receive additional benefits given to the rank of police chief between this year and 2023.