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UPDATED: Hightstown Chief’s Retirement Agreement Includes Raise, Extra Pay

James Eufemia will leave the position after 10 years and much controversy in 2011.

The Hightstown Borough Council evening to enter into a release and retirement agreement with Police Chief James Eufemia.

The council also voted 5-1 to release the following statement about the agreement:

“Chief James Eufemia today has announced his retirement from the Borough of Hightstown Police Department after 30 years of service. Chief Eufemia will retire effective September 1, 2011.

The Borough Council acknowledges the dedication and loyalty that the Chief has given the Borough of Hightstown throughout his career and expresses its appreciation for his service. Mayor Kirson and the Borough Council wish Chief Eufemia well in his retirement, and look forward to the next chapter in the leadership of the Hightstown Police Department.”

Democratic Councilwoman Isabel McGinty dissented on both votes.

"Now the council has decided which direction it is going on this, and there is no stopping that train, but the questions will remain because police issues are of paramount importance to this borough,” McGinty said before from her position as council president.

“I see it as very important that we address police issues,” she continued. “I expect in upcoming meetings that council is going to have to address police issues, and that we’re going to have to address police issues publicly, we’re going to have to answer questions from the public that we’ve put off for all this time.”

“Very respectfully, chief, I cannot vote in favor of this agreement,” McGinty added.

Under the agreement, Chief Eufemia, 55, will retire Sept. 1 and be entitled to the following:

  • a 5-percent raise to his annual $114,193 salary, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011
  • 17 months of pension time in the Police Fire Retirement System, funded by the borough, which still has not received the numbers on the cost of that time
  • annual payments of $5,000 from 2012 to 2021, and ending if Eufemia dies during the course of them
  • any remaining banked sick days and unused or accrued vacation days, which borough officials said cannot be calculated until the chief retires, and $6,851 longevity pay

As of June 8, the chief had 236 hours of sick time and 128 hours of vacation, but Chief Financial Officer George Lang had not yet calculated the cost of those because Chief Eufemia still has over two months left in which to use them, according to Borough Clerk Debra Sopronyi.

The agreement also states that it involves no admission of anything from the borough or the chief, and the chief waives his right to sue the borough.

After the agreement passed, councilmembers and residents alike thanked Chief Eufemia for his service to the borough.

"I've known the chief a good many years, and I wish you the best of luck in your retirement," said Democratic Councilman Larry Quattrone. "You've always been stand-up with me, you've always treated everything in a respectful manner and I always appreciated that."

"Thank you, Chief. You've been nothing but a pleasure to work with in all of my endeavors in Hightstown," said Republican Skye Gilmartin. "I wish you great adventures in the future, and your family as well."

Democratic Councilman Mike Vanderbeck thanked the chief for his help in the years Vanderbeck was managing his downtown business, now Da's Thai Cuisine and Slowdown Cafe. "I for one don't see a conspiracy of council, I think council's deliberated very seriously with this matter," he said. "I think council's looked at a career in its totality and it just shines."

Republican Councilwoman Selena Bibens, who was elected on a  platform of keeping the independent, also thanked the chief. "Any time there's been an issue, I've always felt very comfortable going to you," she said.

"Thirty years, I know that's a long stretch in any job, and I do wish you and your family a lot of happiness," Democratic Mayor Steve Kirson said. "Good luck."

The borough and the chief faced criticism in January when a state report listed Hightstown as , with the most gang members in Mercer County and second to Trenton in the number of gangs countywide. Borough police provided the local numbers for the report.

In February, The chief originally , but later stood by its findings when he and the borough both , each critiquing the other’s response to the report.

In March, the New Jersey State Police and the authors of the report came to a council meeting to address local concerns. But borough officials said they by the chief’s silence on the source of the local numbers, and residents with the report and worried about the borough’s reputation.

Soon thereafter, the Borough Council held a about the chief and then “to address police issues.” In April, the council voted 4-1 to , with McGinty, who was a member of it, again the lone dissenter. The report the committee put together for the council has still not been released to the public.

This article was updated at 9:55 am. June 8 with more information on the chief's salary and other benefits, and again at 4:33 p.m. with the chief's accrued sick and vacation hours.

Joe June 08, 2011 at 12:34 AM
According to the article, one of the of the things the chief is entitled to is "any remaining banked sick days and unused or accrued vacation days and longevity pay" I really, really hope that council knew what that number is, exactly, before they signed on the dotted line.
Vic Monaco June 08, 2011 at 12:38 AM
What, pray tell, is the $50,000 in payments through 2021 for?!
Geoffrey Wertime June 08, 2011 at 12:43 AM
I'm waiting to hear back on just what that number is, Joe. I hope to have the answer tomorrow!
Leslie Bianczik June 08, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Maybe he is going to "maintain the website" like the former borough clerk.
Mike June 08, 2011 at 02:59 AM
Why would the chief leave, given the glowing comments by all but one member of Council? You would have thought he was doing a stellar job as Chief, given the comments of these hypocrites. The truth is that they wanted him to leave. They won’t speak the truth, as that would break the trend they’ve set of treating us all like mushrooms (google that). In recent history of the deparment we’ve had officers deemed unfit to carry a weapon, yet allowed to remain at home at full pay while presumably watching TV. We’ve had officers who beat their girlfriends, hell we’ve even had a former Chief who beat his wife (we paid him to take early retirement too, I believe).
Mike June 08, 2011 at 02:59 AM
Neither Larry Quattrone nor Jeff Bond made any substantive improvement in the way the Police Department was run during their tenures as police commissioner. McGinty apparently decided enough was enough and put into writing just what the issues were. The gang report was just icing on the cake. Council had no backbone to take on the Chief, so they paid him to leave. Simple as that. Oh- they paid him with our money, just as they throw our money around at whatever problem comes up that they can make themselves appear to be deliberative and thoughtful as they dole out the cash (our cash).
Mike June 08, 2011 at 03:02 AM
So another chief is paid to disappear into the sunset, which may apparently end the history of the long line of Police chiefs in the Borough. You read it here on Patch. You won’t hear this from Council, since they really don’t want to communicate the truth as it shows what buffoons they are. Recall this mayor wanted to curtail public comment at Council meetings. He also said famously that he’d rather walk in downtown Cranbury than in downtown Hightstown. I hear they have better local government there, and better schools to boot.
Bill June 08, 2011 at 03:17 AM
Thank you Isabel for once again doing what is right for the people of Hightstown. It is a shame that you are the only council member with a backbone. Your efforts were appreciated by those who care.
Geoffrey Wertime June 08, 2011 at 01:56 PM
The chief's longevity pay is $6,851. The borough has told me they can't calculate his banked/accrued sick and vacation time until he leaves, since he could use it before his last day. I've updated the article to reflect this information.
Joe June 08, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Thanks, Geoffrey. I'm not sure why they can't tell you how much he has on the books right now? Anyway, I fear it's a VERY big number. According to APP.com Data Universe, his salary is $121,044. Let's suppose he carried over just 5 days each year - my guess is that it's higher. Over thirty years that's 150 days of accrued sick leave. 150 times his per deim salary ($121,044/ 260 days per year) is $69,833. That's just a low estimate of the sick leave.
Rob Thibault June 08, 2011 at 05:03 PM
According to the 2011 budget (Sheet 3c), the Borough has a liability for accrued abscences in the police department of $58,660 for 160 days as provided for in labor agreements and $8,961 for 19 days as provided for by individual employment agreement. Eufemia has an individual contract so the $8,961 likely represents what he was owed when the budget was prepared. But because he was covered by the PBA contracts before he became chief, he could be owed more that would be included in the $58,660 number. I'd like to know how much the 17 months will cost and how much that will boost his pension.
Geoffrey Wertime June 08, 2011 at 08:36 PM
The borough tells me that as of today, Chief Eufemia has 236 hours of sick time and 128 hours of vacation, but the cost of that time hasn't been calculated yet since he might still take off and/or earn time before September.
Gabe Morales June 09, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Is there any information as to who proposed the stipulations of the agreement?
Geoffrey Wertime June 09, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Gabe, as far as I've been told and can tell, the agreement was hashed out over several months between the council and the chief (and presumably each party's attorney) in council sessions that were closed to the public.
Gabe Morales June 09, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Geoff, Thanks for the update. Here's hoping that when its my time to retire, I can demand the terms of my retirement!
Vic Monaco June 28, 2011 at 06:51 AM
Geoff--What's the annual $5,000 for? Thanks, Vic
rogersavenue08520 January 04, 2012 at 01:10 PM
This is an old article that I just read trying to review what has been said. I'm a little confused as to what the problem is? The man has been a borough employee for "30 years", he's entitled to get paid for unused time. Unused time means that unlike some other emplyees, he brought his ass to work everyday! He didn't take advantage or abuse the sick leave benefit, which I might add, if he took sick someone else had to work in his place, who made time and a half. Didn't he actually save the borough money by not taking all this time that he ways allowed to take, but didn't? And why would you lump that with his retirement package? Its a seperate issue. Not with you on this one, pick something else to bitch about!

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