N.J. town sacks ex-police chief, seeks $263K paid during suspension

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 15, 2016

Irvington Police Chief Michael Chase, right, confers with his attorney Joseph R. Donahue during his disciplinary hearing in Irvington. Friday, February 8, 2013


IRVINGTON — Two months after he was removed from his position atop the Irvington Police Department, township officials have eliminated former police chief Michael Chase from the payroll.

Chase, a 40-year police veteran, was served with termination papers over the weekend. Copies of the documents obtained by NJ Advance Media indicate officials will seek the return of $263,974 in salary from the former chief.

According to the documents, the sum represents the total of salary and other payments delivered to Chase over the course of a 19-month suspension initiated in the wake of an Essex County Prosecutor's Office misconduct investigation.

The firing comes days after the close of long-running hearings into the raft of misconduct charges levied against Chase during that probe.

In a determination issued last week, an arbiter hired by the township to oversee the hearings found evidence Chase did violate department policy by allowing on-duty department personnel to transport his wife's vehicle to a garage for repairs, and recommended his termination.

Attempts to reach Chase and his attorneys for comment were unsuccessful.

Reached Tuesday, Mayor Tony Vauss said the firing brings to a close a long chapter in the township's history. "We now have policies and procedures in place to move the public safety department forward," he said.

While not happy about the firing, Maurice Gattison, president of the Irvington Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said Tuesday that the department's rank and file is instead "relieved that a person who was himself facing disciplinary charges no longer has control over assigning charges to other officers."

Chase's troubles began in August 2012, when the prosecutor's office placed a monitor over Irvington's Internal Affairs Unit and seized hundreds of documents from the department.

While the probe ended without criminal charges, former police director Joseph Santiago suspended Chase indefinitely--with pay--after the prosecutor's office accused him of quashing a probe into alleged misconduct by his police officer nephew and more than 130 other violations of the Attorney General's guidelines and township police department rules.

In July 2014, Chase was returned to active duty by Vauss, who cited the fact that Chase had during continued to collect his $154,272 annual salary during his suspension.

Chase's tenure as police chief came to an end in January, as the town council eliminated the police chief position, permanently transferring oversight of the day-to-day operations of the township police department to recently appointed township public safety director Tracy Bowers.

On January 28, Chase filed a lawsuit against Vauss, Bowers, and a host of other township officials, claiming $1,000,000 in damages over the legislative maneuverings he said led to the elimination of his position.

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