Disgraced former Jersey City Police Chief Philip Zacche, who pleaded guilty to stealing around $32,000 from the local housing authority via no-show off-duty security details in 2018, has lost an appeal to get his pension back.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office successfully filed suit to revoke Zacche’s pension in the summer of 2019 following a ruling by Mercer Court Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson.
“Forfeiture of a pension has long been a legitimate and appropriate consequence for dishonorable conduct,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Judges Frances J. Vernoia and Catherine Enright wrote in their December 2nd opinion.
“Based on defendant’s admitted dishonorable conduct, and the straightforward language of N.J.S.A. 43:1-3.1(a), Judge Jacobson had no discretion to deviate from the statute by limiting or declining to enforce its provisions, including its provisions for forfeiture.”
Through counsel, Zacche tried to argue the forfeiture of his pension, which was $142,980 a year before taxes, was unconstitutional due to denial of substantive due process, a violation of procedural due process of law, and depriving him of his right to equal protection of the law.
However, the appellate court shot down all of those assertions last week.
“Although complete forfeiture is a significantly punitive consequence in response to defendant’s criminal conviction, it does not constitute a substantive due process violation, nor is it arbitrary,” the appellate court ruled.
“The judge recognized defendant’s forfeiture of his pension benefits was a consequence contemplated by the Legislature, since he used his status as a police officer for approximately four years to obtain security work from the JCHA and engineered receipt of over $30,000 in unearned payments.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has spent the past few years investigating potential instances of corruption by the Jersey City Police Department in relation to abusing no-show off-duty details, which has led to 12 convictions and/or guilty pleas to date.
While Jersey City officials announced in early 2018 that they were halting the off-duty program, Public Safety Director James Shea revealed some preliminary information last week about public service jobs returning before the end of the year.