Lavallette officials on Monday night approved a period of terminal leave for Police Chief Colin Grant, a mechanism allowed under New Jersey public employment law that will see Grant continue to be paid without being present at work until he exhausts his remaining vacation time prior to retirement. In the mean time, the borough council will form a committee to select a new leader for the department as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office maintains its command.
The prosecutor’s office took control of the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau in December 2021 amidst pending disciplinary actions against employees that have still yet to be resolved. Last month, the prosecutor took full control of the department after Grant announced his retirement. Lavallette officials said Monday night that the prosecutor’s office took the step because no officers are sworn into the rank of captain who could step in to temporarily lead the agency. Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer, however, hinted at a more intimate level of involvement with the department in a statement issued at the time.
State pension records indicate Grant was paid $141,984 last year. He has been an officer since 1998, and will formally retire Nov. 1. He will collect his full salary until then. In the interim, the department will be led by Ocean County Chief of Detectives Anthony U. Carrington, Jr., while day-to-day obligations will be delegated to Joseph F. Mitchell, retired Chief of Ocean County Detectives.
Billhimer, in a statement, listed a number of priorities and initiatives he is seeking to implement during the his agency’s time in command, beginning with a “comprehensive evaluation of the department while instituting appropriate levels of employee management and supervision.”
“We will endeavor to work with the borough to develop a command staff, promulgate updated rules and regulations, and hire personnel to facilitate the department’s accreditation,” Billhimer said. “Professional and personal accountability will be required of all department employees while the department is under the day-to-day control of Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Mayor Walter LaCicero said a committee of borough officials would form to decide on the appointment of a new chief. The chief, under Lavallette’s form of government, is appointed by a resolution of the borough council; the mayor would only cast a vote in the event of a tie. Regardless of how quickly the committee moves, the council cannot appoint a chief until Grant’s retirement officially begins.
“We cannot hire the chief now because technically there is not a legal opening,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone. “He is still technically an employed on leave.”
LaCicero said the chief’s position will be filled using the civil service process. Three current officers have taken an exam that could authorize them to become chief, however the borough also has the option of expanding its search to a countywide list of qualified applicants should they decline to hire from within the department.