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police, firefighters return to work, keep pensions
April 27, 2003
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - Retired police and firefighters, unlike many public
servants in New Jersey, can return to work at higher salaries while
continuing to draw pensions.
The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill gave several examples of formerly retired
firefighters and law enforcement officers who are earning more than ever
after landing higher-paying jobs than the ones they left.
According to the Courier-Post, Willie Fontanez, 47, earned an annual salary
of $70,723 when he retired April 1 from his job as a sergeant in the Camden
County Sheriff's Office.
This week, Fontanez will return to work for Sheriff Michael McLaughlin, the
Courier-Post reported, citing payroll records. He will get a $4,386 raise to
supervise delivery of warrants, even as he collects a $35,000 pension.
The switch in jobs will allow Fontanez to take part in the sheriff's
re-election campaign if he wants. As a sergeant, Fontanez could not engage
in politics. But the sheriff said the decision is up to Fontanez.
"Now that he's in an appointed position, I would expect that he would
help me," McLaughlin said. "He serves at the pleasure of the
sheriff; in other words, if I'm not there, it's possible that he won't be
there either. So it would probably benefit him to help me. ...
"But am I going to put any demands on him? Absolutely not,"
McLaughlin, a Democrat, concluded.
Fontanez did not respond to interview requests left by the Courier-Post at
his office. His home phone number is unlisted.
The sheriff's opponent in the election, Republican Dennis Chance, said he
had no problem with Fontanez drawing a pension and earning another
government salary at the same time either.
After all, both Chance and McLaughlin do the same thing.
Chance receives an annual pension of $39,000 as the retired police chief of
Berlin Borough. After his retirement six years ago, Chance took a job as a
field representative for the Camden County Department of Health, earning
McLaughlin earns a pension of $56,000 from his 28-year career with the state
police. As county sheriff, he receives a $118,000 salary.
While other county employees cannot earn more than $15,000 from another
government job after they retire, an exception is made for police officers
and firefighters due to the high risk and stress of their jobs.
Camden County Freeholder Lou Cappelli said he did not know how taxpayers
would feel about the practice.
"I intend to discuss this in further detail with the freeholder
board," Cappelli said.
2002 Global Action on Aging
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