By DANIEL OFFNER
Less than a month after approving a $1,500 monthly stipend for Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini for performing the additional duties of police captain, members of the Harrison Town Council reconvened on Aug. 29 to formally rescind their decision.
The stipend—which would’ve equated to an additional $18,000 per year—was initially authorized by the council following an executive session meeting on Aug. 1 to compensate Marraccini for serving a dual role.
Based on the 2013 town budget, Marraccini is expected to earn an annual salary of $164,457 for fulfilling his duties as chief of police.
Harrison police have not had anyone serve the role of captain since Marraccini was appointed chief three years ago. As the manager of the department’s daily operations, the chief does not earn overtime, something that the stipend sought to address for his additional efforts with the police department.
According to Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, the vacant captain position has often resulted in an undue workload for Marraccini.
“This board was in the mindset that a stipend was appropriate so long as the double duty continued,” Belmont said. “Upon further deliberation…it is my opinion a stipend is not appropriate at this time.”
After the council rescinded the stipend, Marraccini acknowledged it was the right thing for the council and the community.
“I know there are other department heads that are working very hard out there, that I work with on a daily basis, and I appreciate them,” Marraccini said. “I work so hard because my men work so hard for me and this community, and I could not do it without the support of not only the board, but the men and women of the Harrison Police Department, who work for us on a daily basis.”
For members of the Town Council, its initial decision was the result of more than a year of internal debate concerning compensation for Marraccini working overtime hours.
Republican Councilman Joe Cannella said that the council’s decision to rescind the stipend stems from the town’s current economic situation and unresolved union issues, which have not been addressed for more than a year.
Apart from the Harrison police union—which renegotiated the terms of its contract last year—the town’s four remaining labor unions have been operating under expired contracts since Dec. 31, 2012.
“At this time [the council] didn’t feel it’s right, even though it’s just,” said Republican Councilman Fred Sciliano.
However, former Harrison Mayor Joan Walsh, a Democrat currently seeking re-election after two years out of office, said the stipend should not have been approved in the first place since the department could appoint a captain. She added that, through the addition of a $1,500 monthly stipend, the town would ultimately add to the chief’s pension.
“Being the chief of police, the chief executive of the department, is a full-time job and it is expected that he or she will be on call 24-hours a day,” Walsh said. “We have enough capable and well-qualified officers to share the duties of captain.”