Following a closed session discussion, Galloway Council voted 5-1 to pay Bonanni $51,765.24 that council voted not to pay him on Feb. 13. Bonanni then filed a lawsuit against the township, claiming the township’s refusal to pay out his money due was akin to the governing body implying he engaged in wrongdoing.
Mayor Don Purdy, Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola, Councilwoman Whitney Ullman and Councilmen Brian Tyrrell and Jim Gorman voted in favor of paying Bonanni. Councilman Jim McElwee was the lone dissenter. Councilman Tom Bassford was absent.
“We’re not going to fight this guy on his retirement,” Purdy said. “We paid him for his years of service to the township, not our personal feelings.”
“I’m not convinced the amount is accurate,” McElwee said. “But we were backed into a corner because he was going to sue and we may have paid more in legal fees.”
Bonanni was a longtime Director of Public Works, and served as Township Manager from January of 2011 until his retirement in January of 2012.
Earlier this year, Galloway Township News published a series of articles accusing Bonanni of engaging in illegal activities on township time. Those articles were written by former publisher Harry Scheeler, and have since been removed from the site by current publisher Lisa Tilton.
Bonanni has never been held legally accountable for his alleged wrongdoing.
Bonanni’s attorney Benjamin Brenner claimed that denying Bonanni his vacation and sick time meant council was saying Bonanni was doing something wrong.
However, at the time council unanimously voted not to pay Bonanni, members said their decision not to pay him at that time didn’t have anything to do with the accusations.
Neither Bonanni or Brenner were available for comment Tuesday night.
According to Purdy, the township couldn’t prove Bonanni was misusing township time, in part because he’s a salaried employee and not an hourly employee.
“Council feels he put in his time and no one could give a clear answer about how his time was documented,” said Purdy, citing a change in the way hours were tracked prior to 1991.
“We didn’t accuse him of anything. He said we insinuated he did something wrong, but we didn’t do that,” said McElwee, who said he voted no because he was voting with his conscience.
According to McElwee, the township was hoping Bonanni’s attorney would negotiate a price lower than what the township owed Bonanni.
When that didn’t happen and it became clear Bonanni was suing for the money owed him, as well as legal fees, council decided it should revisit the issue.