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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Municipal Mismanagement of the Town of Westfield's Own Policy: The 100K "Secretary"

The mismanagement and abuse of town policy that has occurred, and still continues.  


     When a police officer can no longer perform the duties that he is being paid for and expected to perform, what happens?
     If a police officer is removed from patrol, for reasons known only to town officials, and reassigned to an office known as the “Ice-Box” in the basement of the Westfield Municipal Building, is he still a police officer? 
     When a firearm issued to a police officer by the police department is removed from an officer’s possession, due to his reassignment for reasons known only to town officials, how does the officer attend semi-annual firearms qualifications without that firearm, as all sworn Westfield police officers do?
Town Admin. Jim Gildea
     The answers to these and many other questions expose the continued mismanagement of the town’s resources by town officials including a former police chief, current police chief, and the current Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea.
     Sometime during 2002-2003 Westfield Police Officer Christopher Wolfson was removed from his patrol duties and assigned to an office in the basement of the municipal building.  If applicable, HIPPA laws do not allow for the dissemination of information that may have contributed to the reassignment of Officer Wolfson. This “out of sight, out of mind” office was within the confines of the police department but is a window-less “closet” known to other employees as the “Ice-Box” due to the cold temperatures as a result of the lack of heat.
     During this time, Officer Wolfson was being paid his full police officer salary at a rate consistent with other top-paid officers within the department even though his patrol duties had been suspended.  His daily duties typically reserved for secretarial staff, included trips to Robert Treat on Quimby St. to make coffee pick-ups for other police department officials. 
     TFoTM does not find fault with Officer Wolfson, but questions town officials for the way in which the circumstances surrounding Officer Wolfson’s “reassignment” was allowed and managed.
     Other officer’s in a similar situation could have, or most likely would have, been recommended for a disability pension after it was clear they would never return to patrol duty carrying a firearm.  This would free up the salary and benefits for the town to hire a police officer to patrol the streets of Westfield instead of “pushing papers” and making “coffee runs” for the Chief of Police and other department officials.  Officer Wolfson was earning in excess of $100,000 in salary and benefits upon his recent retirement.
     How could it happen, that a sworn police officer can be paid as a patrol officer, without a weapon/gun for a period of time that exceeded seven years, at top pay, without ever performing the duties of a patrol officer?  How did Officer Wolfson qualify semi-annually at the firing range if his weapon was removed from his possession?  Where are the firearms qualifying scores and Officer Wolfson’s signature attesting to those scores?  Who was the firing range instructor that qualified Officer Wolfson?  
     Some might suggest that Officer Wolfson was assigned “light-duty” better know as "transitional duty" as described and defined in the Town of Westfield's Employee Handbook.  The Town of Westfield has a policy that dictates the parameters in which “light-duty” or transitional duty"may be assigned to an employee.  There is no policy that allows an employee to remain on “light-duty” or "transitional duty" for years on end, unless of course the Town Administrator gives his approval as per the Town's Transitional Duty Policy.  The Town of Westfield's Employee Handbook states the following on pages 6 and 7:
 Transitional Duty Policy
    
The Town will endeavor to bring employees with temporary disabilities back on the job as soon as possible and may assign transitional duty to employees who temporarily cannot perform the essential functions of their positions because of injury or illness.  Transitional duty is not guaranteed and will normally not exceed 45 workdays, but may exceed 45 days at the discretion of the Town Administrator.  If the department already has one employee on transitional duty, it is unlikely that another employee from that department will be assigned transitional duty.
     An employee requesting transitional duty or the Workers Compensation Physician shall notify the Town Administrator as soon as the temporarily disabled employee is able to return to work with restrictions.  The Town may require a physician certification for such a request.  Transitional duty will only be assigned if the employee will likely be able to fully perform the essential functions of the position after the transitional duty period.  The Town Administrator will consult with the Department Head to determine if there is any meaningful work that can be performed consistent with the restrictions.  Transitional duty assignments may be in any department and not just the employee's normal department.  The Town Administrator will decide if it is in the best interest of the Town to approve a transitional duty request and will notify the employee of the decision.  the Town reserves the right to terminate the transitional duty assignment at any time without cause.
     Employees may not refuse transitional duty assignments that are recommended by the Workers Compensation Physician.  In such cases, failure to report to work as directed shall constitute immediate grounds for dismissal.  If the employee believes that the transitional duty is beyond the employee's abilities, the employee may request a meeting with the Town Administrator who will, whenever possible, render a written response within 24 hours.
     Employees on transitional duty will receive their regular salaries and are prohibited from engaging in outside employment of any kind unless they receive prior written approval from the Town Administrator.  If transitional duty is approved, the employee or Workers Compensation Physician must keep the Town Administrator informed of the medical progress.  (Employees assigned to transitional duty will be allotted time off to attend medical or physical therapy appointments but must request leave time for any other reason.)  If at the end of the transitional duty period the employee is not able to return to work without restrictions, the Town reserves the right at its sole discretion to extend the transitional duty or place the employee back on Workers Compensation or disability.  This policy does not affect an employee;s rights under the American with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Contagious or Life Threatening Illnesses Policy or other federal or State law.

     The first statement of the policy refers to employees with "temporary disabilities".  What temporary disability lasts as long as the time period in which Officer Wolfson was assigned to the "Ice-Box?" 

     Are officers assigned "transitional duty" for reasons other than a physical disability such as a broken foot, hand, or other?  Can a temporary psychological disability be a reason to allow an officer to remain on "transitional duty?"  

     Other officers that have been assigned "light" or "transitional" duty have been allowed to carry their duty issued firearm.       
     Officer Wolfson retired last year but was soon hired back by the Town as a “civilian employee” doing exactly what he did while employed during the last 7 – 8 years of his “police career”…..including the daily coffee runs and lunch dates with Chief Parizeau.  This would prove that Wolfson was performing the duties of a civilian employee for almost a third of his career as a sworn police officer.   

     The Westfield Leader's 2011 issue of "This Is Westfield" that was recently published has the Westfield Police Department roster listed on page 46.  Retired Westfield Police Officer Christopher Wolfson is listed under the heading of "Office" personnel.  In previous issues of this publication, prior to his retirement, Officer Wolfson was listed under the heading of "Patrol Officers" while doing much of what he continues to do today as a "civilian employee". 
     Was a deal struck to rehire Officer Wolfson if he agreed to retire from his top paid police officer position?  Was the civilian job created for Wolfson  ever posted for others to apply?  If so, how many other applications for employment were received and who else was interviewed by Town Administrator Jim Gildea for the job created for Wolfson?  It’s not a stretch to answer each of those questions if you are privy to the administrative “shenanigans” that have occurred during Gildea’s tenure. 
     A similar set of circumstances continues to occur with the employment of Westfield Police Officer Nicole Tango-Stivale.  She is currently listed as a "Patrol Officer" but continues to be assigned to the records bureau.  If you look at the roster of employees listed in the "This Is Westfield" publication, it has asterisks next to the names of employees that serve in the Records, Parking, and Traffic Safety Bureau's.  Lt. Scott Rodger, Det. Sgt. John Rowe, Sgt. Jason McErlean, and Ptlm. Gary Moore are names with astericks next to them which indicate the bureau in which they work.  Why doesn't Ptlm. Nicole (Tango) Stivale have an asterisk next to her name?  Should she be listed under "Office" personnel with the other civilian employees?

     After being removed from her patrol duties several years ago, and placed on “light-duty”or "transitional duty", Officer Tango-Stivale never returned to perform the job that the taxpayer’s of Westfield have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for her to do.  TFoTM has profiled the topic on our website extensively, yet the town continues to ignore the wasteful spending within the police department under the direction of Chief John M. Parizeau and Town Administrator Jim Gildea. 
     If not “pushing papers” for department officials, Tango-Stivale can be found “surfing” the Internet, talking on her cell phone, or working out in the department’s gym and taking a refreshing shower afterwards, all the while on “company time”.  Her 6 am to 4 pm shift, working Monday through Thursday with holidays off, was created especially for her.
     The continued wasteful spending by town officials has to be questioned, especially during the current fiscal crisis the state of N.J. and the town of Westfield are immersed in.
     When you hear town officials state that they have reduced 2011 municipal salaries to the expenditures of 2006, to tout their fiscal responsibility, don’t be fooled. 
     You must keep in mind that many of Westfield’s top paid employees, earning twice the salary of new hires as well as longevity pay (not earned by new employees), have been eliminated through attrition due to retirements, unfortunate death, and the non-replenishment of the vacated or eliminated positions, except for Officer Wolfson, of course.  The reduction in salaries has more to do with the actions of employees and not town officials.   
     With regards to the Westfield Police Department’s employees contributing to the decreased municipal salary liability, you must consider the fact that no longer are police officers remaining “on the job” any longer than the time needed to earn and begin collecting their pensions.  TFoTM believes the exodus is due to the current state of affairs within the Westfield Police Department.
Don’t believe it……ask any recently retired police officer….but not retired officer Chris Wolfson. 
You don’t think Wolfson would bite the hand that feeds him……..do you?  



9 comments:

  1. WOW. You have hit on a biggie. What does she do? Is she accounted for when shifts are manned. Who is she a secretary for? How can I apply for that job. How many wasteful spots are accounted for at the WPD. What does Sgt Rowe do? I would think his law degree would carry him, wasn't he the one who used to tell the prosecutors office which statues the crimals broke. Now we have people wondering around, collecting a salary. That never happened before. Westfield always policed the employees, good and bad, what has happened. I wonder if anyone that can retire, will retire. Might as well make it like the olden days when people just hung around years after they could retire. Especially those who are still patrolman in patrol, I wonder how many would still stay if they had to hump cars after 25 years. I know, give them cushy jobs. Perhaps all the smart ones can get hired in Trenton.

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  2. Come on Nicole Stivale and John Rowe both wear short skirts for Davey Wayman, all leftovers from Tracys criminal reign. Truth hurts doesnt it.............

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  3. We are short men in patrol! Throw her rear end back on the road and hire a secretary at the same hourly rate as the others. Total waste of money. All Nicole does is hang out all day, answers to nobody but Wayman, has a cushy schedule, and reports what she sees and hears back to her boss.

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  4. Good story. Why wasn't the officer put on Workers Compensation or out on disability like the policy says should happen, if he couldn't return to his job without restrictions. If the Town reserves the right to extend the transitional duty of the cop for 7 YEARS, somebody in Town should tell us why. This id gross mismanagement!

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  5. Heard a rumor that Nicole was given the plain clothes assignment. If its true what has she accomplished during her tenure as a police officer.

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  6. The designation of "plaimclothes" given to Westfield police officer Nicole Tango-Stivale is suspect but not unexpected in light of the story posted here.

    How could the Chief of Police justify the 100K salary and benefits to a police officer performing duties of a "secretary?" By designating her "plainclothes" it allows the Town to keep her right where she is at, in the records bureau, without enduring the skepticism of the public and other town employees.

    Unfortunately, the designation of "plainclothes" detective no longer holds the prestige that it once had when it was used as a stepping stone to a gold detective badge reserved for those that had proven themselves worthy of the position based on merit.

    What is confusing is that Westfield Police Chief John Parizeau had removed another officer from the "plainclothes" detail last year citing budgetary and manpower concerns. Has there been a sudden windfall of money available? There certainly has not been an influx of manpower in patrol.

    With the numbers of police officers staffing the department dropping to an all low, the assignment of "plainclothes" to Patrolwoman Tango-Stivale and not returning her to the patrol division is questionable. Just sayin', of course.

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  7. You can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig.
    If a officer can go from the records bureau all the way to police chief without ever supervising anyone, the sky's the limit. Now if only I could get some high school girls into the Jolley Trolley, have the parents complain, get taken out of patrol, get hidden in the records bureau, make Sgt., Lt., Capt. then Chief, I'd be king.

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  8. Seems as if the last post was someone who can remember the good old days. I believe there might be some left over MORON promotions. It is truely amazing, a retired and deceased ex police officer made promotions over 30 years ago, are still affecting a department today. RETIRE already. Try to get a life, the WPD will survive without you. If you don't believe me, ask Wheatley. You remember him, the liar that roared.

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  9. The only left over I can think of is that clown Auchter.

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