UPDATE (11/18): New Brunswick Today has learned that Michael Bacorn no longer works for the City of New Brunswick, having resigned for a third time.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—One of two ex-cops who the city re-hired just a few weeks into their retirement is back on the job, after sitting on the sidelines for nine months after questions were raised about the arrangement.
Michael Bacorn resumed his $41,225 per year full-time job as a court security officer on May 26, after abruptly quitting in September 2014.
At issue was how long Bacorn, a former New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD) officer, had been retired from his police job before the city re-hired him to the civilian position on February 10, 2014.
Bacorn joined the city’s Mayor James Cahill, current Police Director Anthony Caputo, and two previous NBPD Directors in simultaneously collecting a public salary and a public pension.
At first, the city had re-hired Bacorn just 72 days after he quit the police force, and he began collecting his $90,710 annual pension.
But a new state rule that went into effect in March 2012 reads: “‘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.”
“There was some concern that maybe his separaton when he retired as a police officer was not lengthy enough,” said Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin III, adding that city officials were concerned “maybe his re-hire might run afoul of pension regulation.”
“[Bacorn] stepped aside again, sat out 180 days, I believe,” Loughlin explained. “And again the police Department recommended his hire.”
Previously, Loughlin has said that they were allowed to be re-hire former cops quickly to city positions.
“We hired them months after they retired as police officers. They’re working in civilian positions. The PFRS pension system allows them to do that,” Loughlin said at a June 2014 City Council meeting. “
But one year later, Loughlin explained to the Council that things were not as “crystal clear” as he had previously indicated.
“There is not an awful lot of regulation dealing with police officers or firefighters in terms of their re-hire in a civilian position,” Loughlin explained.
“For someone like myself, I would have to have been separated for at least 180 days. The issue for police and fire is not that crystal clear.”
After being out of work for another nine months, Bacorn returned to work at the municipal court.
Loughlin confirmed that Bacorn’s new position in the court had not been advertised.
“He seemed to be a good candidate for the position. We approved it here at City Hall,” Loughlin said.
“I’ve never done anything illegal in my life,” Bacorn told New Brunswick Today, explaining that he put in his retirement papers on August 1, 2014, and the documentation he received said that he could be re-hired as a city worker after just 30 days of retirement.
Bacorn said that as soon as he learned something might not be right, he resigned and contacted pension system officials.
Charles Savoth, another former NBPD officer found himself in the same boat, quit the day after Bacorn. As far as New Brunswick Today can tell, he has not been re-hired by the city or its police department.
Unlike Bacorn, Savoth had actually been hired to a civilian job within the NBPD, the same agency he had worked for years.
While collecting a $79,719 annual pension, Savoth was hired to a a newly-created $49,000 a year job as a “management specialist,” supervising traffic safety.
“Charles Savoth is not currently on the City payroll,” Bradshaw told NBToday in August, referring questions about potential plans to re-hire him to the NBPD.
A police captain in charge of dealing with the press referred the question back to City Hall.
“I am not going to discuss personnel issues of such. I would recommend speaking with the city’s Personnel Dept,” wrote NBPD Captain JT Miller on August 28.
According to state officials, both of the former police officers’ pensions are currently under a review known as an “external audit.”
“The Bacorn and Savoth cases were referred to external audit and still require additional review from Division management,” said NJ Division of Pension and Benefits spokesperson Christopher Santarelli.
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.