NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Two former city cops are out of a job for the second time in less than a year after their resignation from new civilian jobs they had taken too quickly after leaving their law enforcement positions.
Michael Bacorn left his police officer job on December 1, one month before fellow New Brunswick officer Charles Savoth.
Bacorn began collecting a pension that amounts to $90,711 per year, and Savoth began collecting a pension that adds up to $79,719.
Both men were subsequently hired to civilian jobs, allowing them to continue collecting lucrative pensions as well as earn paychecks from the same city that employed them for decades.
But the re-hirings came too quick to meet federal requirements to constitute a “bona fide” retirement, according to public documents.
According to a new rule that took effect in New Jersey on March 9, 2012, “‘Bona fide severance from employment’ means a complete termination of the employee’s employment relationship with the employer for a period of at least 180 days.”
Yet 72 days after he retired, Bacorn was re-hired to work for the municipal court, and Savoth was re-hired to work in the police department, actions that should have required them to stop collecting their state police pensions.
Bacorn was re-hired to be the head of court security for $41,225 a year salary on February 10. Savoth was brought back on the payroll on March 1, into a newly-created $49,000 a year job as a “management specialist,” supervising traffic safety.
Bacorn became known for his overzealous enforcement of a questionable rule that prevents citizens from using their cellphones in hallways at the municipal court, while Savoth’s tenure was marred by a high-profile crash involving the city’s Fire Director at a dangerous intersection that was not staffed by a crossing guard.
“We hired them months after they retired as police officers. They’re working in civilian positions,” Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin said at the June 4 City Council meeting. “The PFRS pension system allows them to do that.”
But City Hall confirmed that the two men resigned just over a week ago.
“Chuck Savoth and Michael Bacorn are not on the payroll. Bacorn resigned on Sept. 16, 2014 and Savoth resigned on Sept. 15, 2014,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Mayor James Cahill.
Asked why they resigned so quickly into their new positions, Bradshaw said, “I’m told it was a pension issue, based on a letter received from the state Division of Pensions and Benefits in August.”
Christopher Santarelli, a spokesperson for the NJ Department of Treasury, which includes the Division of Pension and Benefits, said that the letter in question “was sent to all employers” in August.
New Brunswick Today first asked about the suspicious move on May 12, after public documents showed the two men were re-hired shortly after retirement.
At first, officials ignored our questions, even after City Council members were copied on repeated follow-ups beginning on May 21. For weeks, there was silence from City Hall.
Only on June 4, the day of a City Council meeting, was the following statement issued to NBToday: “Savoth was hired as a management specialist with the traffic safety unit and Bacorn will now work as a municipal court attendant for New Brunswick municipal court.”
At the Council meeting, officials defended the creation of Savoth’s new job in the Traffic Safety Unit.
“The concept there was that [Savoth] would do a lot of the paperwork that a sworn officer was doing. It allowed one more person to leave the office and go back to the street,” said Loughlin.
Police made it clear that the two men no longer had the power to arrest people or issue summonses, but that they could potentially be allowed to carry a gun on the job if they asked the State Police for permission.
“If they wish to carry a gun, they can apply to the State Police to carry a gun as an off-duty retired officer,” said NBPD Captain JT Miller at the time.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.