BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Former Deputy Chief Tracy Frazzano is still on the Montclair Police Department payroll even though she was sworn in as police chief of Marco Island, Fla. on Sept. 3.
Montclair’s Director of Human Resources Sharyn Matthews said this week that Frezzano was still collecting her annual salary of $185,096 using her accumulated benefit time.
Multiple requests for the number of sick and vacation days Frazzano had accrued and the amount owed were not answered by the township.
Frazzano’s Marco Island salary was not immediately available, but the Florida town’s recruitment ad for chief position stated a salary between $105,000 and $120,000 with a 30 percent benefit allowance.
Frazzano’s last day with Montclair was Aug. 20, township communications director Katya Wowk said in August.
However, after two attempts over a month period by Montclair Local to access Frazzano’s separation/ termination agreement with the township, Matthews said on Thursday, Sept. 26, that Frazzano was still a Montclair employee.
“Deputy Chief Tracy Frazzano was hired with the township Aug. 1, 1995. Her total current salary is $185,096.88. [Deputy Chief] Frazzano is not separated from the township,” Matthews said.
On Aug. 29, Montclair Local submitted its first request under the Open Public Records Act for Frazzano’s separation/ termination agreement with Montclair.
These agreements document financial payouts for accrued sick and vacation time not used by the employee and carried over from year to year, but required to be paid by the township either in one lump sum or payments upon termination of employee.
That request was then denied by Matthews, not because no such agreement existed, but on the grounds that the agreement would be part of Frazzano’s personnel record.
“In response to your request regarding information on Deputy Chief Frazzano’s termination/separation agreement, please note that we are unable to release that information since it is part of her personnel record and exempt from OPRA,” wrote Matthews.
In an addendum to the Aug. 29 OPRA, Montclair Local rejected that denial based on the law that allows for an individual’s name, title, position, salary, payroll record, length of service, date of separation and the reason therefor, as well as the amount and type of any pension received, as part of a public government record.
On Sept. 13, township custodian of records Holly Maykow answered that the information sought would be forthcoming.
“As those records aren’t maintained by my department, please allow until early next week for the information to be provided to you,” wrote Maykow.
After three other emails asking for the status of the request for Frazzano’s agreement, on Sept. 26 Matthews told Montclair Local that no such agreement exists because, “Ms. Frazzano is still an employee of the township using her accumulated benefit time.”
Deputy Mayor Rich McMahon and Councilman Sean Spiller, both on the public safety committee, forwarded questions on Frazzano still being on Montclair’s payroll rather than taking a buyout to the township manager, who did not respond.
“Police contracts are not our bailiwick as members of the council or Public Safety Committee. They are within the manager’s purview,” McMahon wrote.
The New Jersey Police Benevolent Association did not return phone calls seeking comment. An attorney from the Department of Community Affairs however said he was not aware of a case in which a township employee was kept on the payroll after resigning to collect unused sick time.
According to Montclair’s 2019 township budget and its Analysis of Compensated Absence Liability the current liability for accrued sick and vacation time for all township employees is $12.65 million with a total of 241,648 hours owed. Police and fire employees topped the chart with 71,888 hours owed at a cost of $4.5 million for police, and 86,870 hours at $4.77 million for the fire department. The next department with highest amount of accrued benefits is the department of community services at 41,188 hours and $1.48 million.
In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law capping the payouts at $15,000 for all new employees. He later vetoed a bill that would have capped all employees, old and new, at $15,000, saying he wanted the payouts to cease altogether.