Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hillside cop undergoing discipline allowed to draw pension

In response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, I received an August 19, 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Township of Hillside (Union County) and former Hillside police officer Francisco (Frank) Utset. I've placed the MOA on-line here.

According to the MOA, the Township was in the process of firing Officer Utset for "engaging in conduct unbecoming a public employee on July 21, 2008. To that end, the Township had issued a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action and suspended Utset, with pay, effective July 21, 2008--the day after the alleged "unbecoming" incident.

Despite the pending disciplinary charge, Officer Utset applied for "accidental disability retirement" benefits from the Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS) and the Township agreed to hold its disciplinary action in abeyance while the PFRS decided Officer Utset's retirement application.

After a year had elapsed, and the PFRS still hadn't decided whether or not to grant Officer Utset's retirement application, the Township, citing "the severe economic crisis," decided that it couldn't continue to carry Officer Utset on full pay and benefits. Accordingly, an agreement was forged under which Officer Utset would go on "administrative leave" effective July 22, 2009, at which time he would no longer receive any pay or benefits.

The Township "agree[d] that the best course of action would be for [Officer Utset's] disability retirement application to be approved." To that end, Officer Utset agreed to "actively pursue his application" and the Township agreed to "cooperate" in this endeavor.

According to my search today on DataUniverse, the PFRS did grant Officer Utset a $36,047.88 annual pension with a May 1, 2009 retirement date. According to the search, which is on page 9 of the PDF at the link above, Officer Utset's "final average salary" was $90,119.94.

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Open Government Advocacy Project
paff@pobox.com
732-873-1251