Pending final input from a state office, Mayor James Davis may soon begin collecting both his police captain pension and mayor’s salary simultaneously, a lawyer representing the mayor said last week.
According to Craig Gumpel, Davis’s personal attorney on the matter, he and Davis appeared before the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System board on Oct. 19 in Trenton to appeal the mayor’s inability to collect his police pension, reportedly $120,000, because he did not give the required 180-day notice of retirement before starting work as Bayonne mayor, which pays $72,000. Davis had resigned from the force just before beginning his term as mayor on July 1 last year.
A 2012 state regulation prohibits retirees from collecting a pension without 180 days of “bonafide severance” of that individual’s employment if they have taken a different job in the same municipality, Gumpel told the Bayonne Community News on Oct. 28.
“The board heard his request last Monday [Oct. 19] and granted it to start having his pension benefits paid,” Gumpel said. “The initial determination from the Division of Pensions and Benefits was that Mr. Davis didn’t have the 180 days of severance of the employee required for his retirement to become a bonafide retirement.”
But exceptions to that 180-days’ notice exist, such as if the individual’s retirement was considered “mandatory” because of a maximum age of 65, according to Gumpel. Davis was able to appeal his decision based on a different argument.
“The doctrine pertaining to him was ‘incompatibility of office,’ which means that you can’t be your own boss,” Gumpel said. “By virtue of him becoming mayor of Bayonne, his position would be incompatible with him being a police captain in Bayonne. He severed his police captain post by taking the mayor’s position.”
The majority of the nine board members at the meeting agreed, approving Davis’s appeal by an 8-1 vote, for the final determination from the PFRS board.
The only roadblock left for Davis to collect his pension now is advice from the state Attorney General’s Office about the decision, according to Gumpel. If the Attorney General’s office agrees with the board’s decision, Davis will receive retroactive pay dating back to last summer.
“The doctrine pertaining to him was ‘incompatibility of office,’ which means that you can’t be your own boss.” – Craig Gumpel
The city of Bayonne did not release a statement on the details of the Oct. 19 meeting because Davis’s appeal was considered “a personal and personnel matter,” Chief of Staff Andrew Casais said in an email.
A state bill crafted early this year would have allowed recently retired police officers and firefighters, like those in Davis’s situation, to collect both their pension and salary while serving in elective office, a daily newspaper reported in the spring. After being approved in the state Senate, the legislation was halted in the state Assembly.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.