From those PBA members who plunged wearing kilts and war paint to those who plunged dressed as superheroes to those who plunged wearing barely anything, they accentuated the reason thousands of them once again stepped up for the Polar Bear Plunge on Feb. 20 in Seaside Heights: Pride.
‘I bet you know Pat Colligan’
by Editor and Publisher Mitchell Krugel
Or here is what you should know about the personable, good-humored, good-natured, courteous, committed, creative, gregarious, knowledgeable, energetic, quick-witted, effusive new NJ State PBA President.
Stop me if you heard this one:
A police officer walks into a bank…
OK, stop me if you heard this one:
Franklin Township Police Officer Pat Colligan walks into a bank in town. Three elderly women have a table set up off the lobby where they are selling afghans as a charity fundraiser. Pat walks up to the table. He is dressed in civilian clothes but wearing a Local 154 shirt. The ladies notice his police logo and start to chat him up. One of the ladies begins by saying:
“Hey, are you a police officer?”
“Yes, I am,” Pat replies.
The lady comes back with: “I bet you know Pat Colligan.”
“True story,” says Pat Colligan, your new NJ State PBA President. “They had never met me. I didn’t know them. No joke.”
Life can be funny, and it often is for Patrick Colligan, who brings a bevy of refreshing skills to the PBA’s top level of leadership. Not the least of these is gifted sense of timing to make light of situation by oozing a one-liner that elicits a laugh, creates an instant bond and can even lift the tension.
Talk about perfect timing. Stop me if you heard this one: Pat Colligan walked into a meeting at union headquarters in Woodbridge on Sunday evening, June 22, and walked out as the next NJ State PBA President.
And it very well may be his refreshing outlook, glass-is-always-half-full philosophy and fraternal fanaticism that can lift the organization through what he calls the biggest fight in the history of the PBA.
“I had a dream that I was PBA President last night,” Colligan quips when beginning his first sit-down interview as president with his official magazine. “Then, I woke up, went to the bathroom and said, ‘holy s_ _ _, I am President.’”
Know this about your new president: He is clever, creative and committed. And there’s a lot more where that comes from.
“If you have read my articles, you know I don’t hide too much; I’m a pretty open guy,” Mr. President says. “I try to keep my sense of humor no matter what’s going on. You have to keep a smile on your face. The union can be aggravating at times, but I try to look for the silver lining. There’s always something positive about everything in life.”
A word you will hear come up often in conjunction with President Colligan is “affable,” which makes him friendly, likable, personable, simpatico, good-humored, good-natured, courteous, gracious, approachable, amenable and gregarious, among other executive qualities. It also makes him simpatico with the theme that introduces the PBA’s new leadership duo, for which we will make you read through only one Butch Cassidy reference and that is to another memorable line: “You just keep thinking, Butch. That’s what you’re good at.”
“At the end of the meeting, Tony told me, ‘you were brought here because of your business sense and your personality,’” President Colligan related. “My personality is what helped me get here. I have a lot more responsibility, but my personality is not going to change.”
Timing is everything
So you want to talk about perfect timing: When the announcement was made to the Board of Delegates that Pat Colligan was being named Executive Vice-President in the wake of Keith Dunn’s resignation and, in effect, be the next PBA President, he wasn’t even there.
That was the morning of June 24 in Atlantic City. As Colligan noted, he was suddenly called to a meeting at the PBA office on June 22 where he was informed about Dunn’s decision and retiring President Wieners’ subsequent choice to move up Colligan. Wieners told Colligan the announcement would be made Tuesday, and Colligan replied that his daughter was graduating from high school that morning.
“I told Tony that I would pass up the graduation,” Colligan said, “but we agreed that was not the way we wanted to start this thing.”
Now, you really want to talk about perfect timing: When Colligan graduated from the academy and joined Franklin Township in 1992, he was assigned to a patrol coach on his first day. His guy happened to be Darren Russo, then the Local 154 State Delegate. That also happened to be the time when five Franklin Township officers had been indicted and were pending trial.
Colligan soon started writing letters on the officers’ behalf that wound up as editorials in the local paper. The handwriting was on the wall for him at that point.
“Those guys were on the verge of being finger-printed for prison, but when I saw how the union got involved I was like, wow, this is the right thing to do,” he said. “I had an instant love for the union. When I was at the academy, one of the captains who hired me said I was going to be the next chief. If I got in the car with somebody else besides Darren that morning, I might have gone to take a promotional exam, worked my way through the ranks and never realized how important the union is.”
Patrolling with Russo provided a daily lesson for Colligan in many aspects of PBA works. In 2001, he became the Local 154 State Delegate. He joined the State Executive Board and rose to Sixth Vice President by 2013.
As part of working in Woodbridge, Colligan was able to watch Wieners at work up-close, an opportunity that not only left him knowing what needed to be done and how to do it but how big a task was really at hand.
“I have some big shoes to fill,” he admitted. “Literally. Tony wears size 13s.
“He had a passion for the job that will be tough to equal. Despite the challenges he faced, he made some incredible changes, especially on the health side. He saved hundreds of lives. You become a cop to help people and you maybe get to save one life. Tony saved hundreds.”
As you probably figured, there is a serious side to your new president. The one who has seen this the most is that noted teacher of special education students, Lynette Colligan, who provides us with a key as to when her husband gets serious.
“He lets a lot roll off his back and tries not to let things get him into a bad mood,” she confided. “When he was on the job in Franklin Township, he never brought bad days home to the family.”
But a person can only take so much, right?
“It takes a lot to get him going,” Lynette continued. “The aggravation will center him. It will help him move forward to get the job done.”
So how will members tell when he’s got that focus working?
“When he puts his mind to something, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy,” Lynette revealed. “He doesn’t give up. He’s relentless for causes he believes in 100 percent.”
Serious tends to feed off studious for the new Mr. President. You’ve read references he’s made in his NJ Cops magazine columns that evoke substantive research into current events and other data. This will come up in conversation with him, too. When making a case for how collective bargaining benefits law enforcement, Colligan cites examples in southern U.S. states where cops have no such opportunity and face compensation issues all the time, all over the place.
He’s going to come at you members with similar logic and sound reasoning. Don’t be surprised to hear him implore you to get involved by repeatedly reminding that being a PBA member is not just about paying the dues.
“You don’t have to run for office to be involved with the union,” President Colligan reasons. “You just have to lend a hand. Let your Local leaders know they not going to be running a golf tournament with just two people to help out.”
Who needs sleep?
At this point, many members might be wondering what President Colligan’s plans are to deal with the extreme challenges the PBA faces. If you want to know what he’s thinking, know that he’s been thinking since, oh, a few minutes after he left Woodbridge on the night of June 22.
“When I couldn’t fall asleep that night, my head started spinning,” he explained. “I finally fell asleep around 2 a.m. I woke up at 3:30 and that was it. I realized this is big business and I felt like somebody handed me the keys to a Macy’s and walked away. I ordered the Gucci belts, but the roof is leaking and somebody needs to take out the garbage.”
Despite all the ideas that spawned that night, President Colligan will confirm that his first best idea was naming Marc Kovar Executive Vice-President. Kovar has closely followed Colligan up the PBA ranks, and he knew Kovar’s experience representing a Local in an urban area such as Passaic combined with his expertise gained running the Collective Bargaining Committee would make him the perfect complement.
“I’ve known Pat for 10 years. I know how smart he is. I know how dedicated he is to the PBA,” Kovar submits. “Knowing how his passion would lead us in the right direction made me feel very confident about taking this position.”
Colligan adds that the virtue of having Kovar as his wingman will allow them to hit the ground running. Sprinting, though, is probably more accurate. Their first official Board of Delegates meeting on July 15 provides an indication of how fast they can move or want to move. A 9 a.m. Executive Board meeting preceding and a luncheon with the County Conference chairs scheduled afterward is a historic program for the organization.
“I was told that’s not something we normally do; we always did it this way,” Colligan said. “We’re not going to let Tradition Stagnation become a problem. We have too much to do.”
His idea list plays like his personality: refreshing, uplifting, provocative. In addition to planning to meet with every elected official in the state legislature, Mr. President is already calling for a PBA day in Trenton. Members wearing their union attire will spend the day at the state house this fall wandering in and out of meetings to let politicians know how much of presence the PBA can muster. He has other plans to rally other labor unions in New Jersey together to come up with a new strategy to take on the common enemy.
You can be sure there will be more. More ideas. More suggestions for how all members can get involved. And, yes, more one-liners.
“You will never have to worry about me stabbing you in the back because I will stab you in the front,” Mr. President declares. “You will always know where I come from. I want you to like me, but I don’t need you to. We have the camaraderie. We have the brotherhood. Let’s pick it up and start moving the football.”
Sizing up Christie’s run for President
Now that Chris Christie has announced he is a Republican candidate for President, the question that is most often obviously asked is, “Can he win?” There are plenty of scenarios that can lead to starkly different answers. The second question that tends to follow is “Will he step down as governor?” That question appears to have been answered. But unless something seismic occurs, in the state or in the race, New Jersey is in for an unprecedented and complex time for at least the next eight months.
To win the nomination, an individual needs to rely on a number of fleeting factors: money, personality, experience, determination, message, timing and luck. It would take far more than a magazine article to properly analyze how Christie shapes up to these factors. So let’s take a few key points that lie ahead of the campaign.
The Christie haters and the New Jersey press have obviously made up their minds about his chances. Many articles following his announcement, including some from national media outlets, refer to the campaign as a “long shot” or “four years too late.” But in the bright light of political reality, that may be a bit premature.
The most important factor, outside of the candidate themselves, is money. Candidates will raise, and spend, tens of millions of dollars each the next few months. But candidates who lose in early primaries will see that that their donors will move on to give to others they perceive can win. When the money dries up, candidates quickly drop out.
There is little doubt Christie will be able to raise significant sums of money to stay in the race well into 2016. A negative story, a bad debate performance or a loss in an early primary tends to dry up donations and that almost instantly ends their campaign. But Christie is a great fundraiser and he has developed a team of mega-rich donors and a “Super PAC” that practically assures he will not run out of money during his race. Access to campaign cash means he will continue to travel, run ads and push his message to compete with his negative polling numbers.
The current polls seem to indicate that Christie is a second-tier candidate, but they are in reality a snapshot in the past and often they teach candidates how to fix themselves or hurt their opponents enough to move up. Plus, polls on Christie’s duties in New Jersey take into account Democrats and independents who have soured on their prior acceptance, and they represent a group that is mainly irrelevant in a GOP Primary. In many ways, political spin can be employed to use those numbers to build the Christie message for President – that he doesn’t need to be loved to be effective and that he is just what the country needs now.
We are far too close to the situation to see the entire picture. The Presidential race won’t actually get to us until the Republican Primary in June 2016. But the real race for the nomination begins in February and March when voters go to the polls in for primary elections in Iowa, New Hampshire and other key states. And that is important to remember. Chris Christie is no longer speaking to a New Jersey audience, and he is not at all concerned if the Star-Ledger editorial board approves of him or whether public employees picket his appearances.
New Jersey residents need to remember who Chris Christie is trying to impress. GOP primary voters tend to be more conservative than the average New Jersey voter, and they were not paying attention to whether the governor called pensions a “sacred trust” or whether he intentionally underfunded the pension system. So a protest from New Jersey employees is only going to set the governor up nicely to roll into his stump speech about “telling it like it is” and “making hard decisions.” And that, quite honestly, is going to drive New Jersey public employees to the brink of insanity.
There is no question, regardless of how one feels about him, that the governor has a gift for public speaking and for conveying authority and conviction. That doesn’t mean what he says is accurate, but in Presidential politics accuracy is less effective than the delivery and the message itself. Compared to the field of more than a dozen GOP candidates, Chris Christie is not going to lose a debate on style unless he decides to mock, ridicule or personally attack a fellow candidate. Other candidates, however, know he can be baited to attack and some of them are likely dreaming for a sit-down-and-shut-up moment. That may work, to some effect, in Jersey but it simply won’t be viewed as Presidential in a Primary campaign.
Christie’s opponents have lots of ammo. The economy here lags behind other states. He has fluctuated his positions on some core conservative GOP issues. He is far too close to Democrats for some, and I am sure the picture of him hugging President Obama after Hurricane Sandy hit is going to find its way into mailboxes and on TV if he starts moving up the ranks. That is even before you mention the “Bridgegate” issue. And he isn’t running against Barbara Buono this time around, so rest assured if opposing candidates need to use their opposition research on him, they will hit the governor where it hurts.
Christie’s chances to win the GOP nomination hinge in many ways on winning an early primary, notably New Hampshire. If he gets blown out there, the national media will immediately write him off and voters in other primary states will look elsewhere. Which means he will probably be in New Hampshire, and other early primary states, as much as he is in New Jersey. That is necessary for his run for office but probably not conducive to governing here. Christie has given every indication, publicly and privately, that he has no intention to leave office early. Nobody, therefore, should be looking for him to call it a day in Trenton and move on.
With so many candidates in the race there is a great deal of opportunity to either break free or fall behind the pack. While the odds still don’t favor him winning the nomination, we are really only in the pre-game warm-up to the event itself. Which means there will be a lot less governing and a lot more politics driving the agenda in the state for the near future.
Politics trumps law in pension decision
The disappointing decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court refusing to enforce the provisions of Chapter 78, which provide for mandatory pension contributions by the state, is not just legally incorrect and morally unfair. It is also an abdication of the court’s duty to enforce clear employee rights because of its fear of the political ramifications that might ensue. Of course, making decisions without concern for political consequences is precisely what courts are created and sworn to do – make unpopular rulings which, in the long run, uphold the rule of law. The analysis contained in the Supreme Court’s decision is an unfortunate example of an abdication of its core judicial responsibility.
By now you all know the basic facts. After years of underfunding, Chapter 78 was specifically enacted to require that the state make its required contributions to the pension systems. It created a contract promising that each year the amount to be paid would be ratcheted up in one-seventh increments, meaning the full actuarial contribution would not even be made for seven years. Nonetheless, it was a major improvement to the chronic lack of virtually any funding. The governor made the first two annual payments, but since that time has used his line- item veto to avoid payment of even these limited statutory amounts. On behalf of the NJ State PBA, we sued the governor for his breach of the contractual promise contained in the very law he pushed as the solution to the pension problem.
It bears repeating that this was no ordinary contract entered into by the state. It was a contract and promise created by a statute – an extraordinary action. In fact, because of chronic underfunding of the pension plans, we worked very hard to ensure that Chapter 78 contained language that was both crystal clear and impossible for a court to ignore. Provisions were inserted to make certain that the contributions to be made by the state were not just aspirational – they are an explicit statutory “contract” with each state employee. Moreover, to avoid technical legal defenses, Chapter 78 included language that any pension participant or union could sue the state to enforce that contractual right, and that the state even waived “sovereign immunity” – its defense when we previously sought to enforce the contract right in federal court.
Notwithstanding all the foregoing, the court ruled 5-2 that the legislature – and governor – did not have the legal authority to “create” such a contract, because provisions of the New Jersey Constitution known as the Debt Limitation Clause and the Appropriations Clause prohibit any legislature from requiring a specific monetary payment to be made by future legislatures or the governor without voter approval. In effect, the court held that the state did not have the authority to enter into this contract. While it did not declare the statute unconstitutional, as the governor contended, it effectively declared the component requiring state funding to be legally unenforceable. Of course, the New Jersey Supreme Court has often vacillated on when a particular expenditure constitutes a “bonded debt” which must be subject to voter referendum, and when a particular payment is simply a normal expenditure of government. Here, it is difficult to ignore the logic that paying a pension obligation annually is not a “bonded debt,” but simply the cost of having a pension system at all. And it is worth noting that New Jersey has never failed to make the full payment on any bond it has ever issued for private bondholders, even without such a statute.
The politics, however, trumped logic and fairness. Not surprisingly, the three recent Gov. Christie appointees to the court all voted for reversing Judge Jacobson’s decision in our favor. The two dissenting justices accepted our arguments that there was no inherent contradiction in upholding the Chapter 78’s contractual promise, despite the constitutional provisions. The dissent also pointed out that the state’s seven year phase-in of full contributions was directly tied to the increased pension and health-care contributions you are required to pay. By refusing to invalidate employee contributions under Chapter 78, employees must continue to pay while the governor is off the hook for his end of the bargain. The dissent noted that the majority decision enforcing the statute’s higher employee contributions, while giving the governor a pass on his reciprocal obligation, was nothing short of a “bait and switch.” But the case was effectively lost once the court had split along party lines.
The opinion is particularly galling in that it contains numerous acknowledgements that our position is fundamentally correct; that what is occurring is grossly unfair and will only increase cynicism about government; and that it only digs the pension hole deeper. And, despite the obvious ramifications of the decision, the court continues to contend that all vested pension benefit obligations must be paid by the state – even though it blinds itself to the reality that pension benefits cannot be paid if pension contributions are not made.
What is occurring in New Jersey, unfortunately, differs from several other states precisely because New Jersey does not have a constitutional provision protecting public pensions. In Illinois, for example, there is such a constitutional protection. We had hoped that the statutory language and history of Chapter 78 would be sufficient to convince any court that the payments must nonetheless be made – even without a constitutional amendment or voter approval. After all, the legislature and governor created and entered into this contract – not some errant mid-level bureaucrat. Unfortunately, a majority of the justices did not agree.
So, you now ask, where do we go from here? In the short run, it is the same situation as always – the state is not making its full contribution, the amount of unfunded liability is increasing and everyone pays lip service to the theory that the benefits will still be paid. And fortunately, the local component of PFRS, the system in which the majority of law enforcement officers participate, is still relatively well-funded. The reality, however, is that unless this, or a future legislature and governor, promptly start making all the payments, whether voluntarily or through a constitutional amendment, the Court’s promise that all vested benefits will ultimately be paid in full will remain more lip service than law.
The 2015 Police Security Expo in Atlantic City showcased some of the finest tactical equipment a department can purchase, but also included training sessions throughout the course of the two-day conference. President of the New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement and retired Captain Lori Mambelli discussed the importance of mentoring women and the fundamental steps a leader in the police department can take to mentor female officers.
“To recruit women, they have to see there are women in leadership positions as well,” explained Mambelli. “Women will connect more easily when they see females as leaders. My best mentoring relationship was with a female chief because I was able to connect with her.”
Mambelli emphasized the importance of having females in leadership positions to train up and coming officers. Those in leadership positions, male or female, should take on a mentoring role.
As she spoke, she raised questions to the dozen or so officers in attendance. “How many of us here attribute to our “success” to a mentoring relationship?” One or two raised their hands in compliance. “For those who didn’t, could we have done better in our careers, personal development and leadership skills if we had a mentor?” Everyone nodded in agreement.
The mentor relationship is one that offers wisdom, guidance and advice in a student/teacher type of relationship. In order to forge a successful mentor relationship, it must come from a genuine place.
“Take is personally, that’s what is important,” appealed Mambelli. “If you don’t take it to heart when you mentor someone, it’s a waste of time. People can see it. People can see it’s fake.”
A mentor can help overcome many of the obstacles in the workplace.
Obstacles to Career Advancement for Women
- Lack of influential mentor or sponsor
- Lack of networking with influential colleagues
- Lack of competent role models who are members of similar racial and ethnic groups.
- High visibility assignments
Mambelli continued to use a slideshow to explain the role of a mentor and provide tips for who a mentor is and what he/she does.
Who is a Mentor?
- A friend, an advocate role model who displays integrity and courage. You have to be trusted.
- Volunteer the time
- Provide personal coaching and interpret the organizational culture
- A sounding board and a good listener
- Suggest rather than direct
- Respond to request for guidance rather than unsolicited advice.
Framework for Mentoring
- Frequency of meetings
- Clarifying responsibility for relationship
- Realistic time-framed expectations
- Who possesses the drive?
- Who is willing to be challenged?
- Are they able to listen to others and accept guidance?
- Are they willing to take responsibility for personal development?
- Must be open to change
Strategies for Success
- Exceed performance expectations consistently
- Develop professional communication styles with male managers
- Seek difficult and high visibility assignments
- Blow your own horn and sell yourself on work achievements