NJ Appellate Divison of Superior Court upholds $306k payout for ex-WNY employee

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The New Jersey Appellate Division of Superior Court upheld a Hudson County Superior Court ruling from last year that will force the town of West New York to finish paying former employee Janet Passante the $306,324.30 retirement compensation package owed to her. 

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By John Heinis/Hudson County View

According to the 16-page ruling by Judges William E. Nugent and Harry G. Carroll, Passante worked in West New York from 1975 until April 30, 2010.

She worked in both the Public Safety and Public Affairs Departments, as well as the Chief of Staff to then-Mayor Sal Vega from November 2006 until she retired.

After reviewing documents with town counsel and the town business administrator, Passante signed an agreement prepared for $306,324.30, which was approved in the form of a resolution by the board of commissioners on May 10, 2010.

The agreement was to compensate Passante for accrued sick time, compensation time and accrued vacation days.

Then, after Passante received over one-third of her retirement package, $112,219.87, the West New York Board of Commissioners, now under Mayor Felix Roque, adopted a resolution rescinding the payout on August 17, 2011.

The following month, then-Town Attorney Gilberto Garcia was authorized by the board to investigate if certain payment packages to former town employees were valid.

In September 2011, the town filed suit against Passante alleging that the resolution authorizing her payout violated statute and public policy, among other things, while Passante answered with a countersuit asking to be paid the remaining $194,104.43 she believed she was owed.

The town of West New York, through Garcia, argued that the agreement was invalid on a technicality: since it was presented in the form of a resolution, instead of an ordinance.

[B]ecause the “Agreement” was ratified by Resolution rather than by Ordinance it is void and unenforceable. Plaintiff argues that because the then existing employment policy Ordinance did not permit the type of payment authorized under the Agreement, the Agreement had to be introduced and adopted by Ordinance rather than by Resolution.

While Passante prevailed in Hudson County Superior Court, the town filed with the state Appellate Division of Superior Court on August 19, 2014.

“The town concedes on appeal that it ‘no longer disputes Janet Passante’s entitlement to receive her compensation for 300 unused sick days,'” Nugent and Carroll wrote on page eight of their decision.

“We further note the Town no longer contends on appeal, as it alleged in its complaint, that its agreement with Passante is void due to mutual mistake, fraud, the making of an unconstitutional gift, disparate treatment contrary to public policy, misrepresentation, or unjust enrichment.”

Citing case law, the judges agreed that “the agreement was contractual, not legislative in nature, and as such a resolution is sufficient”.

The decision also states that Passante accumulated compensatory time and unused vacation days under two prior administrations, so the salary ordinance in effect when she retired would not apply to her.

“Because the Town did not raise the issue that its contract with Passante was void because she was not entitled to accrue vacation days during the years she actually accrued them, we decline to address it on the inadequate record before us,” the last page of the decision says.

Garcia did not immediately return calls seeking comment, while Passante could not be reached for comment.

A full copy of the appellate court ruling can be read here.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The Town of WNY should sue Gilberto Garcia for malpractice. Any One L student could see that it was a contractual agreement and not part of the personnel policy of the Town. His argument that it should have been an ordinance and not a resolution makes no sense. Then again, replacing Julio Morejon with Gilberto Garcia made no sense either.

  2. Please Alvarez. Watch your mouth. Chances are you have no idea what she even did while she WORKED for the town for many many years. Unlike the dead wood your buddy felix brought in. All the “new” employees who have been there just under four years are the the ones milking the system and bleeding the town of its last drop except for a few. A visit to town hall is like a day at the circus.

    “As a matter of law”…. Gil was and will always be a moron. And the real question is …. Aside from losing this suit initially…. How much did he bill the town for his defective and flawed research?

    Someone needs to do the math on Gil’s billings vs his win/lose ratio on allllllll of the lawsuits he butchered. I already have and you will be astonished. He has done wny a great disservice.

    Aside from the select few who pay attention the average wny resident has no idea what’s happening right before their very eyes.

  3. Nice payout for 35 years. Almost 10 grand per year on top of her nice salary. Let us get to the point. When I see a picture of Roque and Sal Vega together I see 2 crooks that is all. Al Bringa making over $200,000 a year also got a nice payout after only 26 years. He owns 3 beauty salons in New York and drives a Maserati all from milking the town. I am begging come election in May 2015 throw everyone out !…Give some one new a chance cause it can not get any worse than the previous 2 mayors. If the new guy screws up , you can kick him out in 4 years. Again anyone is better than what WNY has now. It is up to you the people to make that change. Spread the words to the voters…

  4. Poor Gill, along he thought Donald was his friend, but behind his back he was telling everyone in city hall that Gil had the mentality of 5th grader. Gill and you actually don’t Donald was a friend.

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