By DANIEL OFFNER
Members of the Harrison Town Council agreed to pay an additional $1,500 a month stipend, or the equivalent of an additional $18,000 a year, to Police Chief Anthony Marraccini for performing the additional duties of police captain.
The decision was made in executive session on Aug. 1.
Harrison has not had anyone serve the role of police captain since Marraccini was appointed chief of police three years ago. By the end of 2013, Marraccini will have earned a salary of $164,457—not including the stipend—for serving as the manager of the department’s day-to-day operations.
Republican Councilman Fred Sciliano stated that the decision provides added compensation for the chief for going above and beyond the duties he is required.
“The chief has spent a lot of overtime, even though he doesn’t have the assistance he was delegated,” Sciliano said. “We are actually saving a lot more without a captain, which is a positive for budgetary reasons.”
Based on the 2010 budget, the final year he served as captain, Marraccini made $139,479 a year salary as captain of the department.
Sciliano added that, since the police chief position does not earn overtime, this stipend serves as payment for his additional work with the department.
But while the Town Council, in its capacity as police commissioners, can authorize the additional stipend, the decision should not have been made behind closed doors, according to state Open Meetings Law.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said he does not understand how the town’s decision applies to any of the approved terms of the law.
“It doesn’t sound like they have any of the applicable qualifiers,” Freeman said. “Therefore they had no basis for executive session.”
Based on Open Meetings Law, the only acceptable criteria which warrant an executive session decision are discussion of “the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.”
At the Aug. 1 meeting of the Harrison Town Council, the five-member board stated that its reason for a closed-door discussion was to discuss the “negotiation of a contract” and matters pertaining to “personnel.”
“Because it is a personnel matter, that was where it was discussed,” said Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican who disputed that the reasons for an executive session were unjust.
Although the state does provide an exemption when it comes to the discussion of specified personnel matters, the resolution giving a $1,500 stipend to the appointed title of Chief of Police does not constitute the discussion of a particular individual, but their position in the department.
Because the town did not specifically address any payment specific to Anthony Marraccini, but the designated title of chief, anyone appointed chief in the future could potentially receive the stipend as well, unless terminated by the Town Council.
Based on the town’s resolution, payment of the monthly stipend shall continue as long as the position of police captain remains unfilled, provided that the acting Chief of Police continues to serve a dual role.
The council’s executive session decision also comes more than a year since members of the town’s police union voted to add the chief as a non-voting member, which the council, in its capacity as police commissioners, would need to approve or reject in order for the chief to join the union’s ranks. They have not voted on that decision, to date.
Phone calls to Police Chief Marraccini and town councilmembers Marlene Amelio and Steve Malfitano were not returned as of press time.