Harrison proposes plan to keep police chief Klein 3 more years |
Valley News Dispatch

Harrison proposes plan to keep police chief Klein 3 more years

George Guido

Longtime Harrison Police Chief Mike Klein could remain on the job another 3 1/2 years under a new proposal under consideration by township commissioners.

While a new contract for Klein remains in limbo, commissioners Monday took a step toward approving a final pact and a retirement plan.

Before a packed house of Klein supporters, commissioners voted 4-0 to advertise an amended ordinance that would allow him to work 3-1/2 more years and have his pension frozen. He has been with the department 35 years, the last 25 as chief.

Klein, 61, has agreed to take just a 1.5 percent raise this year. He has declined a raise on the fourth year of the contract that would take him to age 65.

“We’ll have money in the pension plan and having him here for 3-1/2 more years allows him to train a new chief or suggest a new chief,” said township Manager Rich Hill, who researched the plan with an actuarial firm.

Added Hill: “His total package with the concessions means he takes less money.” Commissioners are deadlocked at 2-2 with commissioners President William Heasley and former president William Poston favoring the agreement.

Commissioner Robin Bergstrom said she has 11 objectives she want to achieve and voted no. Commissioner Charles Dizard voted no and wanted to table the matter until Feb. 25, saying he had just received an email from Hill on the matter Monday morning.

“I am not opposed to a retirement soft-landing for Mike Klein,” Dizard said. “I want to consider some ideas that haven’t been considered.”

Commissioner Gary Lilly was out of town and could not be reached by phone for a possible tie-breaking vote.

J. Rodney Duster, local businessman and chairman of Harrison’s civil service commission, spoke strongly in favor of Klein, as did a number of others.

“For 25 years he has run a scandal-free police department,” said Duster. “Chief Klein runs the department in a military manner. We need to treat this man fairly, equitably and with the respect he deserves.”

After the meeting, Klein would only say that “it’s a big contingency” when asked about the meeting’s outcome as he received considerable well-wishing from a number of residents.

The Deferred Retirement Option Plan states that a member of the municipal pension plan must agree to forego the following: active membership under the contract; any growth in salary base used in calculating retirement benefit; and any additional benefit accrual for retirement purposes, including length of service increments.

George Guido is a freelance writer.