On Wednesday May 13, Brigantine voters decided to oust Public Safety Director; Dan Howard. It was a short and tumultuous run for Mr. Howard that exposed many inefficiencies within City Hall. (much to the dismay of city employees)
One big stink emerged as the May 13 election approached. It was a bombshell revelation: Brigantine’s Mayor Guenther admitted that he didn’t know who was in charge of the employee overtime piggy bank. This WTF moment would be kinda funny, if it wasn’t so sad and downright disrespectful to Brigantine taxpayers.
Some suggest that some city employees have a virtual blank check for overtime pay. One report shows where a Brigantine Fire Captain pulled down $1,900 in just one day working for the OT sugar daddy known as Brigantine. It was legal, but it’s been a costly loophole that’s been funded by the taxpayers for quite some time. (see sample of OT & Comp time requests below)
Mr. Howard was brought in to temporarily fill a public safety position and assist in bridging the divide between the city and the unions. Brigantine had embraced the Public Safety position for many years during the Republican stranglehold on the city.
When the GOP lost their majority to the fiscally conservative Democrats in November of 2012, the Republicans lead by Mayor Phil Guenther had a change of heart. For a portion of Guenther’s ongoing 22 year reign, the public safety director position was enjoyed as an ‘extra perk with pay’ by former City Manager /ex-cop ; Jim Barber. Today, the Republicans along with the Public Safety unions, are no longer fond of the PSD role. Go figure.
On Wednesday night May 7, 2014, the you know what hit the fan. The Mayor was shocked and surprised to hear that the City Manager lost control of authorizing overtime. That authority was ceded to the Public Safety Captains as per an arbiters ruling on February 19, 2014. WATCH VIDEO:
The Mayor’s view conflicts with employee union’s position on this financial hot potato. FD union rep; Tiger Platt, has maintained that the Public Safety Director is ultimate sign-off and the City Manager has final say. The Feb 19 arbiters ruling, along with the mayor’s recent statements, suggests that Platt’s statement is not accurate.
Differing Viewpoints: Brigantine Employee OVERTIME Scandal.
Mayor Guenther: Not sure who signs off. ‘I’m as shocked as you are. I always assumed the manager signed off on overtime’. ‘We have a major flaw’. ‘We need more oversight’ ‘It (OT) should be signed off by city manager’. MAY 7, 2014. Brigantine City Council Meeting.
Mayor Guenther: “the director and manager are ultimately responsible for denying overtime requests” Press of Atlantic City MAY 11, 2014
FD Captain Tiger Platt: ‘Erroneous claims are being made that the city manager does not have financial oversight over the Captains is ridiculous. No arbitrator can remove that responsibility from her. For the record, we welcome an investigation in to the overtime approval process’. Letter to BrigantineNOW.com. May 12, 2014
Dan Howard; Public Safety Director. Based on arbiter ruling: ‘The captains have taken it upon themselves, as of Feb 19, to authorize it & approve it’. MAY 7, 2014. Brigantine City Council Meeting.
City Hall: ‘Department head is the authorizer of the overtime’. MAY 7, 2014. Brigantine City Council Meeting.
FD Captain Tiger Platt: ‘There are checks and balances in place’. ‘As far as guys being required to work 3 hours when recalled to duty, that was done by Dan to simply break our stones.’ (PSD Dan Howard wanted employees to work all three hours of contracted, minimum 3 hour overtime deal) MAY 12, 2014
Former FD Chief Darryl Platt (1986-1997): ‘OT has always been approved by the platoon officer and passed to the “Chief” for final approval. The city manager shouldn’t have to review every OT slip submitted, that’s the Department Heads job. The departments need chiefs so the City Manager can manage the city, not each department independently. That’s the Department Heads job.’ MAY 14, 2014
City Manager Blumenthal: “They keep approving overtime even as the director says they can’t do it,” she said. “One captain will approve bringing in another captain during his shift.” Blumenthal said each time the issue is brought up, the department’s labor attorney argues that the captains, as the officers in charge, are entitled to approve each others’ requests without input from the public safety director. Press of Atlantic City MAY 11, 2014
City Manager Blumenthal: “the city’s restricted in what it can do, since the current Fire Department leadership has broadly interpreted their contract. Press of Atlantic City MAY 11, 2014
Brigantine Taxpayers Association: ‘I think we have a gross form of corruption here’. MAY 7, 2014. Brigantine City Council Meeting.
Brigantine 2nd Homeowner Group: ’Now that we make up 70% of city tax dollars, part-time residents demand more accountability. Fire Department’s unique employee schedule of two 24 hours shifts per week, allows for some to take on one or two extra full time jobs at same time. That is wrong.’
Brigantine Resident: Scandal? Get real. It’s just business as usual on the island you’ll love for life….as long as you’re on the city payroll.
Mayor in Disagreement with Fire Department Union? OUR SUMMARY:
FD Captain Tiger Platt contends that the (Public Safety) director has the ultimate control over how much overtime is spent. Mayor Guenther has agreed & disagreed with Captain Platt. He shared one view on WOND Radio, MAY 14, 2014. (Listen Below) Mayor describes how Chiefs/Department heads currently control overtime approval and spend.
Mayor said: Chief/department head currently approves overtime, then it goes to payroll process and it is paid. Mayor would eventually like it ‘reviewed’ by city manager. If city manager sees something questionable, she should question it, before it is paid. “Now, you (City Manager or Public Safety Director) may not be able to deny it, but at least you’re looking at it and you’re seeing those trends as your making those payments”
Brigantine’s Mayor Guenther on WOND Radio. MAY 14, 2014. Host Don Williams asks Mayor: What if city manager Blumenthal hires soon-to-be ex PSD; Dan Howard as Chief? The Mayor seems surprised by that question. Quite frankly, we never thought of that possibility either. Mayor was also asked about potential overtime abuses and Brigantine’s favorite sport: “Let’s Sue The City”. The Mayor confirmed that pending ligation continues from Acting Police Chief Cox.
Click to see samples of OT & Comp Time requests…