State Probes Delay in Suspended Police Chief's Disciplinary Hearing

Sunday, Sep 22, 2013  |  Updated 2:55 PM EDT
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State Probes Delay in Suspended Chief's Hearing

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State officials are reviewing why a disciplinary hearing for a suspended northern New Jersey police chief was delayed for several months.

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Irvington Police Chief Michael Chase was suspended last December after authorities claimed he committed at least 130 violations of Attorney General's Office Guidelines and department regulations. Under state guidelines, a disciplinary hearing should have begun 30 to 45 days after the charges were filed.

The Star-Ledger reports that the hearing did not get under way until last week. And it says Chase has been paid roughly $115,000 so far this year, even though he has not worked since his suspension took effect.

Irvington Police Director Joseph Santiago and Mayor Wayne Smith tell the newspaper that the delay occurred because Chase's attorney, Joseph Donahue, filed repeated requests to push back the hearing while he reviews thousands of pages of documents tied to the case.

Chase and Donahue did not return calls seeking comment on the matter.

Chase was suspended after an investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office accused him of quashing a probe into alleged misconduct by his police officer nephew and charged him with failing to properly supervise his department's Internal Affairs Unit.

The state Civil Service Commission told the newspaper it was investigating the hearing delay. State guidelines mandate that an employee cannot be suspended for more than six months unless criminal charges are pending.

Santiago said he cannot allow Chase to return to work because of the serious nature of the allegations against him, but he can't legally withhold Chase's pay.

"His salary is in the budget anyway. It isn't new money,'' Santiago said. "Obviously we don't put money in the budget to pay people not to work.''

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