Official must repay wages collected after his ouster

Ken Gordon Jr. was voted off the council.
Ken Gordon Jr. was voted off the council.
Posted: January 26, 2014

WILLINGBORO The township's former deputy mayor must return nearly $3,000 in wages and other compensation he collected after being voted off the council in the summer for missing a series of meetings, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder's written opinion ends a bitter court fight between Ken Gordon Jr., a Democrat, and the four other Democrats on the five-member council.

His seat was vacated after he missed three meetings over eight weeks, but for a while he continued to receive payments.

Gordon, who is also president of the Southern Burlington County branch of the NAACP, has long been at odds with the party leadership and had argued that the court battle over "unearned wages" was "purely a means of retaliation," according to the opinion.

He did not respond to calls for comment.

The judge said the township had a right to recoup the money because Gordon should not have been paid anything after his seat was vacated Aug. 13 following his failure to attend the meetings.

"Willingboro is entitled to the full return of this unearned compensation," said Bookbinder, the county assignment judge.

The amount - a total of $2,963.77 - consists of a portion of his annual $15,500 salary as deputy mayor, and about $1,700 for an advance quarterly payment he received under a township insurance buyback plan.

The judge, however, rejected the town's argument that Gordon should also have to pay back the wages he received during the eight weeks he was absent.

Bookbinder said that argument was primarily based on a court ruling involving former State Sen. Angelo Errichetti - who missed meetings during his trial for federal criminal offenses - and did not apply to a municipal council member.

"I'm sure the town will be overjoyed to get the funds back that were not utilized properly," said Mayor Eddie Campbell, referring to the money that Gordon will have to return. As for Gordon's claim that the town pursued the litigation to punish him, Campbell said: "I did not have any friction with Ken Gordon. . . . He took things personal."

Gordon, who is also a minister in Willingboro, had said in an interview last year that he had missed the meetings while away on business trips in the Midwest and West.

A national accounts director for a health-care company, he said that when he had attempted to explain his absences and provide travel receipts, the township solicitor, Michael A. Armstrong, told him it would be "pointless and would not help."

Gordon said he believed the council had decided to remove him, instead of excusing his absences, because he had accused the council of cronyism and had questioned why Armstrong was receiving health benefits, contrary to state law.

Armstrong was an outside contractor, not an employee, Gordon said.

Armstrong did not return a call for comment; nor did Gordon's lawyer, Andrew M. Smith.


jhefler@phillynews.com

856-779-3224 @JanHefler

www.inquirer.com/burlcobuzz

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