HE'S CA$HING OUT Despite scandal, chief will get pension - plus a termination bonus

HE'S CA$HING OUT Despite scandal, chief will get pension - plus a termination bonus

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 Jersey Journal

Retiring a few years early will leave 59-year-old Police Chief Carmen LaBruno with a comfortable landing - and may cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The city has not yet sealed a deal with the chief, sources say, but he is expected to announce this week that he will retire at the end of June, sources have told The Jersey Journal.

LaBruno, who has been chief for the past 18 years, has been under pressure for his role in two SWAT team trips to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina - one in September 2005 and the other during Mardi Gras 2006.

After 37 years on the Hoboken force, LaBruno's annual salary is $210,794. And when his retirement becomes official, he would be entitled to an annual state pension of around $147,555, based on an estimate using the state Department of the Treasury pension calculator.

Under his contract, LaBruno would also be entitled to a lump sum compensation for leave and unused holidays and sick days at a cost of around $810 per day, sources said.

The city did not provide details of how many days he is owed. But as a superior officer he will also likely be entitled to termination pay - five days for each year for his 37 years, officials said. That's another 185 days at around $810 per day, or $149,850.

Some are now questioning whether allowing him to retire early might be letting LaBruno off the hook.

"The perception is that those at a higher level who are responsible don't get a full review while those at the lower level are having to deal with consequences," Councilwoman Beth Mason said. "The concept of this is just to avoid litigation when the focus should be addressing what happened and putting in place steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Nine officers, including several who went on one or both SWAT trips to Louisiana, received multiple disciplinary charges.

LaBruno was photographed posing with a topless woman during the 2006 trip to New Orleans, one that SWAT officers said was to provide security at Mardi Gras. But the SWAT team was not authorized by law enforcement officers in Louisiana, and in fact, city officials say, LaBruno told them that he was on vacation.

City officials say LaBruno told them he paid for his own transportation to New Orleans, but Joel Mestre, the deputy coordinator for Office of Emergency Management, said that the SWAT team's bank account paid.

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