BARNEGAT – Former Police Chief Arthur Drexler, who had been suspended without pay last year, has had his status changed to a separation and retirement after a settlement reached recently.
For months, residents only knew that the chief had been suspended. There was no public knowledge of why.
Now, the attorney for the township was able to release a settlement agreement that describes what caused the conflict.
Drexler was accused of giving himself compensatory time in a way that the township thought violated his contract. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office was brought in. Their investigation determined that it was a disagreement between Drexler and the Township Committee on how compensatory time could be given. The prosecutor’s office saw no illegal activity in how Drexler did it, and said that the language in his contract regarding compensatory time was too vague.
Therefore, a settlement agreement stated that Drexler was returned to being chief, retroactively received all of the benefits of the last few months, and then retired.
Part of the settlement agreement includes a media release that described the settlement between the two of them as “amicable.” The settlement was made to end litigation and to prevent future litigation. It also cleared Drexler’s name of any charges, retiring him after 31 years of “faithful, honorable service.”
A press release regarding the settlement states, in part, that the township and Drexler have resolved all issues. “The Township and Chief Drexler have resolved these issues in order to bring an end to their existing dispute and to eliminate the prospect of further litigation between the parties in state and federal court. In the wake of that settlement, Chief Drexler has indicated his desire to retire after 31 years of service to the Township of Barnegat and, accordingly, has filed for retirement and concomitantly tendered his resignation as Barnegat’s police chief. The Mayor and Township Committee have accepted Chief Drexler’s resignation and retirement in good standing, effective February 1, 2017. The Mayor and Township Committee wish Chief Drexler well in his retirement and in all of his future endeavors.”
After Drexler had been suspended, Captain Richard Dugan was appointed acting chief. Officials said he will likely be appointed chief very shortly.
The settlement agreement was released to the press on February 13. It states that there was a dispute between Drexler and the township regarding his records for compensatory time around July 19, 2016. The township argued that Drexler was not contractually entitled to compensatory time that he gave himself.
On July 25, he was served a preliminary notice of disciplinary action suspending him with pay pending the outcome of the county prosecutor’s investigation. The notice alleged various violations, to which Drexler pled not guilty.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation on July 26. The Township Committee voted to suspend Drexler without pay, effective August 19.
The settlement agreement noted that Drexler was cooperative with the investigation. At the end of which, the prosecutor’s office declared “it does not appear that [there] is sufficient credible evidence to support the conclusion that Chief Drexler intentionally attempted to deceive the township.” Additionally, “the language of the amended employment agreement was unclear as to the intent,” which led to a disagreement between the committee and its chief.
On December 5, Drexler filed suit against the township, claiming that his termination was unfounded. The township continued to argue that Drexler served himself compensatory time that he was not allowed. The township served him with a second preliminary notice of disciplinary action alleging additional misuse of the compensatory time. Again, Drexler said he was not guilty of these charges.
The two parties sat down to settle their dispute out of court. The terms of the settlement are as follows:
- Drexler shall be reinstated to his office as chief, retroactive to the date of suspension from duty without pay on August 19, and until his date of separation and retirement, February 1.
- The township will dismiss all charges filed against Drexler and will not file any more.
- The township will withdraw and expunge all charges, allegations, or orders for Drexler.
- As of February 1, Drexler’s status is now a voluntary separation from service in good standing and retirement in good standing, with all the rights and benefits attached.
- A media release regarding Drexler’s innocence would be produced.
- The township will return any personal property left in his office on the day of his suspension.
- Drexler will be given retiree police credentials, such as a photo ID card, wallet badge, and the wallet it goes into. The township would have to process his permit to carry a handgun and the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act.
- The township must pay Drexler a total of $240,000. Of this, the following is included: $97,036.55 in gross retroactive pay from August 19 to Feb. 1; and $142,963.45 in retroactive salary. He would also be paid an incremental salary increase.
- The township must pay into his pension for those months that were missing, based on his monthly salary of approximately $19,000.
- Drexler must give up all accumulated paid leave and severance entitlements.
- An indemnification clause holds Drexler entirely harmless from any current or future liability or litigation regarding this matter or in any of his official duties for the town.
- Neither side is liable for anything else.
- Both parties are to pay their own legal fees.
- Both parties release each other from any other negative actions “from the beginning of the world to the date of this release.”