Bonanni denied $50,000 in unused sick, vacation pay

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Stephen J. Bonanni Sr. (File) Stephen J. Bonanni Sr. (File)

GALLOWAY – In a word, Mayor Don Purdy wanted to just say, “No.”

He repeated the word a number of times in response to reporters’ questions about why Township Council Tuesday, Feb. 12 decided not to pay former Township Manager Stephen Bonanni more than $50,000 in unused sick and vacation time.

Following a brief executive session to consider the issue, council members returned to the dais and one after the next responded “no” to the question of payment.

The resolution to pay Bonanni $51,765.24 has been put off for several meetings.

“I want to look at our exposure,” Purdy said after the meeting. “I’m only one person, but I don’t want to give him this money. We acted in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

He alluded to alleged incidents during Bonanni’s tenure where he might not have been entirely focused on township business during his regular work time. These include teaching a college class and other activities outside the township.

Former township Clerk Lisa Tilton alleged in a lawsuit that Bonanni sexually harassed her, wouldn’t let her address council and forced her to quit the Planning Board.

Bonanni, longtime director of public works, retired Jan. 31, 2012, after a year as township manager.

Purdy and Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said the resolution to pay Bonanni will be looked at again.

In a turnaround from other issues that have been settled – including Tilton’s suit – they said the township is prepared to face litigation.

“We’re looking out for the taxpayer and we’re always on the defensive,” Purdy said.

Tilton’s suit was settled in December for $250,000. Galloway also settled a suit with a current employee, Jody Smith, for $250,000 at Tuesday’s meeting. Purdy cast the only negative vote on that settlement.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council also voted unanimously to pay $21,545.23 to former township manager and chief financial officer Jill Gougher, for sick and vacation time. This is the second of three payments for Gougher, who is now borough administrator in Stone Harbor, Cape May County.

Purdy said to the best of his knowledge there has been no discussion with Bonanni over the issue.

“I haven’t talked to him,” the mayor said. “I don’t know if any of our employees have. But there has been no official communication with council.”

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