Ex-chief in sex toy scandal still on payroll while collecting $140K pension
MOUNTAINSIDE — Borough officials have suspended three top officers in the police department over sexual harassment and corruption allegations involving a sex toy.
But one figure implicated in the scandal remains on the job and has been collecting two checks from the public — one for working and another for retiring. It's a practice called double dipping and, unlike some of the allegations against the police department, it's perfectly legal.
The small municipality’s current business administrator — James Debbie — was police chief from 1998 until his retirement from the force in 2014.
It was during those years that Debbie presided over an animal house police department where one of the high-ranking officers often harassed people with a sex toy nicknamed “Big Blue,” according to a lawsuit filed this month by six members of the department.
The lawsuit says Debbie knew about “Big Blue” and often laughed about it. One of the plaintiffs says Debbie dismissed him as a “malcontent” after complaining about Detective Sgt. Andrew Huber’s sex toy antics at headquarters.
While borough officials have suspended Chief Chief Attanasio, Huber and Lt. Thomas Murphy with pay, officials have not said whether Debbie has been put on leave. Debbie did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Debbie earns more than $61,000 as business administrator while collecting an annual police pension of $140,000 for his years as a police officer.
Because Debbie’s business administrator job is in a separate pension system, Debbie will be entitled to collect a separate pension when he retires from that job.
Debbie was appointed as a part-time business administrator in 1998 while he was still police chief. After he retired from the police department in 2014, he became business administrator full time.
Debbie's son is police chief of the Union County Police Department. He was not implicated in the lawsuit.
Borough officials this weekend said that the Union County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating fresh allegations in the lawsuit. Borough officials last week said prosecutors had investigated some of the lawsuit’s allegations when they were first brought to light 18 months ago.
Borough officials would not say what recommendations prosecutors made. A spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office declined to acknowledge the existence of any investigation.
Among the accusations in the lawsuit:
- Huber got paid overtime while attending a family event and was paid twice — by the department and by the school district — for the hours he worked as a coach.
- Murphy often used the N-word.
- Murphy is allowed to run two side businesses while supposedly on duty for the department.
- Murphy assaulted cops by shoving a flashlight up their anus.
- Huber and Attanasio stole a Berkeley Heights police car after phoning in a false report about an officer needing assistance.
- Huber often placed his testicles on officers’ food.
- Huber tossed feces-stained toilet paper at officers on several occasions.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.