Negotiating the Jersey City police off-duty rates for the 44th Annual Milad Parade on Sunday brought the entire program under scrutiny, emails obtained by HCV show.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“We are awaiting a revised bill from Off-Duty Employment. Attached is City Ordinance 23-056 which concerns off-duty police employment,” Saad Admani, general counsel for the Milad Committee for North America, wrote in September 27th email to Cultural Affairs Director Christine Goodman.
“The police rate for tax-exempt organizations is $50/hour, not the quoted $150/hour. Please see attached IRS Determination Letter for Milad Committee of North America. Additionally, we request the administrative costs be waived under the Hardship Exception granted under Ord. 23-056 (F).”
He added that he called Police Director Tawana Moody for further guidance and was awaiting a response.
Goodman replied the next morning that the off-duty employment coordinates those matters.
Elyse Gibbs, the Jersey City off-duty employment manager, said that she had already told Admani the bill will not be adjusted and the event will be cancelled if payment is not received by 1 p.m. – about three hours after her email was sent.
Admani responded 12 minutes later, sticking to his guns that his clients would not pay the rate suggested since it goes against the ordinance on the books.
“Your estimate is in violation of City Ordinance. For your convenience, I have attached page 4 and page 19 of City Ordinance 23-056. My clients will pay your bill when you correct the estimate to $50/hour for police time,” he explained.
“Failure to grant my client a permit is a violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. Your office will be subject to a lawsuit if this parade is stopped. I advise you to consult with your Law Department.”
Six minutes later, Gibbs said back that given that this is a non-city event held on a weekend, officers are entitled to double time pay on Sundays/holidays (the event took place on October 1st).
Admani remained steadfast in his position, replying by email four minutes later that the charts are clear: nonprofits are supposed to be charged $50 per hour and that police are only entitled to overtime after eight hours, which was not applicable in this case.
At 12:05 p.m., 55 minutes before Gibbs said payment was due, Goodman suggests that the permit can be amended for a procession held on the sidewalk, since it would allow for a gathering without the need for police escorts.
“Walking on the sidewalk is not an option for us. We have a constitutional right to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion as such we will proceed with a parade on the street,” Admani replied at 12:16 p.m.
“The estimate provided by the Off-Duty Employment Office violates City Ordinance by charging us a tax-exempt organization $150/hour.”
Public Safety Director James Shea said in a 2:32 p.m. email to about two dozen people, including the parade organizers, Gibbs, Goodman, the mayor, and city council, asserting that the event was still not permitted and the bill wouldn’t be changed.
“This proposed event is currently not permitted, and we are rapidly approaching the cut off time for scheduling police officers to be assigned. If the event is going to proceed, we need the application and fees forthwith,” he wrote.
“There are no exceptions to the fee structure for Saturday/Sunday events. All applicants are treated equally. Officers assigned are necessary to ensure the safety of all and the minimum disruption of traffic and freedom of movement. The estimate provided will not be revised. If no permit is issued, no disruption or blocking of traffic will be permitted.”
Jerry McCann, a former mayor who was convicted on multiple fraud charges in late 1991 and who is now a senior auditor for the city, agreed with Admani that the police off-duty rates for nonprofits is clear.
“It is not the job of Public Safety to question the actions of the City Council and the Mayor. It is the job of the Public Safety Director to follow the law. If I am misreading this ordinance, please let me know. A situation is being created that will only lead to even more problems,” McCann stated.
“Read my emails carefully. Maybe the money charged the parties to this ordinance are giving the money directly to the City through some other means but there is a substantial amount of money that seems to be missing. We cannot get the Police to investigate the Police. John Metro has assigned this to outside auditors.”
He also alleges that public safety personnel has said that money from this account has been used “to cover other deficits,” which would be improper and only amplify the problem at hand.
On the morning of the event, McCann claims the account is in the red by half a million dollars.
“This was established I believe in June, 2023 and it already has a $500,000 deficit. I understand that John Metro has asked the Outside Auditors to look at this but it is much more serious than that. I hope they are not paying people before the money has been received by Public Safety,” he said in another email.
“Where did the vehicle usage and administrative fees go? We had a problem in the past and now that Public Safety is in charge they could be ten times worse. It is my understanding from Personnel involved that they were ordered to remove funds from this account to cover overspending in other accounts. THIS IS NOT LEGAL unless authorized by the City Council not administration. I doubt either party authorized this.”
Admani declined to comment, while city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione indicated that cooler heads prevailed, other entities will be reimbursed as needed, and that a new pilot program was formed as a result of this situation.
“The JCPD worked with the Milad Parade Committee to come to a resolution. Any discrepancies found from previous events will be rectified by JCPD,” she began.
“Additionally, to reduce costs for event organizers, the JCPD started a pilot program to train and deploy traffic enforcement personnel to substitute for police officers where possible while still adhering to all State mandates for moving processions. With permission from the Milad Parade Committee, the use of the trained traffic enforcement proved successful and we will explore using the program for larger scale events in the future to further reduce costs.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione.