Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hackensack agrees to pay nearly $3M to former police chief

Former Hackensack Police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisa (


Hackensack will pay former Police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisa nearly $3 million, hoping to end one of the most contentious periods in the city's history.

Zisa, who was suspended in 2010 after 34 years in the Police Department, will receive nearly $1,755,000 in back pay, vacation days, sick days and other compensation.

And the city also will pay nearly $1,203,000 to cover Zisa's legal fees through Sept. 30.

Criminal case

On Aug. 23, a state Superior Court judge dismissed the single remaining charge of official misconduct against Zisa.

That charge was related to a 2008 incident in which the chief was accused of  removing his then-girlfriend from the scene of a car accident before she could submit to a sobriety test.

Zisa later filed an insurance claim for $11,000 in damages, saying the girlfriend, Kathleen Tiernan, swerved to avoid an animal.

In a 2012 criminal trial, a Superior Court jury found Zisa guilty of five counts, but the judge at the time, Joseph Conte, dismissed three guilty verdicts, leaving only insurance fraud and official misconduct.

Zisa was sentenced to five years in prison, but remained under house arrest during his appeal.

In 2015, a state appeals court dismissed the insurance fraud charge.

Zisa tort claim

On his last day as city manager on Friday, David R. Troast and City Attorney Alexander H. Carver III agreed to make the nearly $3 million in payments to settle Zisa's claim for damages.

They did so without advising Mayor John Labrosse or other members of the City Council.

Zisa demanded $5 million in damages, claiming his constitutional rights were violated "by the unlawful conduct of the city of Hackensack."

He listed the damages as "lost wages, lost benefits, psychological and emotional, attorney's fees and punitive damages."

Payments to Zisa

Zisa received the first of three payments to cover back pay and other items related to his job on Friday -- nearly $660,000.

He is due to be paid two more installments of nearly $548,000 on Jan. 10, 2017, and Jan. 10, 2018.

The so-called Payment Agreement and Release notes the city will not pursue administrative charges against the former chief.

Zisa advised the city he wants to retire rather than return to duty as police chief after an absence of more than six years.

So, he was reinstated and placed on administrative leave with pay until his pension rights are restored. 

Counsel fees

The agreement notes the city manager has reviewed the legal bills and invoices submitted by Zisa defense attorney Patricia Prezioso, "has found them reasonable, and has directed payment in full."

The exact amount is listed as $1,202,867.52.

That's on top of the job-related payments of $1,754,790.40.

Suits against Zisa

More than 20 police officers filed suits against Zisa, who also once served as a Democratic state assemblyman.

The city was obligated to defend him and pay his legal fees.

City officials say those fees totaled $8 million in one four-year period when Zisa's cousin, Joseph C. Zisa Jr., was city attorney.

They said Joseph Zisa would retain as many as 10 lawyers to fight each case.

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