Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Suspended Fireman Still Collecting Pay

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Suspended Fireman Still Collecting Pay

Article excerpt

A veteran Passaic firefighter suspended eight months ago after he was charged with making crank phone calls during a working fire has switched lawyers and delayed his disciplinary hearing -- and is still collecting his $142,000 annual salary and earning pension credits, city records show.

Capt. Stephen Geosits has been suspended with pay since early December, when he was charged with official misconduct on charges of impersonating another Passaic firefighter and making the crank calls. Geosits, who once stood trial for pulling a false alarm in the firehouse but was acquitted, was suspended under Mayor Alex D. Blanco's "zero tolerance" policy on misconduct and was subject to termination.

But in eight months, Geosits has never had a disciplinary hearing, and one isn't scheduled.

From the beginning of the year to July 20, the last available pay date, Geosits had been paid $68,122, payroll records show. And because he's still employed, Geosits continues to earn pension credits and is covered by health insurance.

Passaic spokesman Keith Furlong said the disciplinary hearing process got bogged down when Geosits switched lawyers several months ago. Furlong said the city wants to move to terminate Geosits, and the firefighter wants to keep his job.

"This is not about actions taken by the city of Passaic," Furlong said. "This is about his actions. The city wants to move forward, but it must respect due process."

Geosits' new lawyer, Jeffrey Garrigan, said Friday he got the case only "a couple of months ago" and anticipated that a hearing would be held "sometime in September." Garrigan said the phone calls Geosits placed were not crank calls and he will fight to get his job back.

"Holding a hearing during the summer is tough because it's hard to assemble all the witnesses because of vacations," Garrigan said. Geosits did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Geosits had 27 years of service before his suspension, and like any other firefighter, can retire with a full pension after 25 years. He also earns a 1 percent pension "bonus" for every year he works beyond 25 years.

Geosits' suspension also carries an additional, hidden cost to taxpayers. …

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