The Princeton Council is slated to hold a special session Thursday to vote on a separation agreement with Police Chief David Dudeck.
Sources say Dudeck and the town of Princeton finally reached an agreement Monday on the terms of his separation, and that Dudeck has signed a separation contract. The Council would still need to formally approve the agreement.
The Council is scheduled to hold the special session on the issue at 5 p.m. Thursday in the main meeting room at the municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street. Part of the meeting will be a closed session, and then the Council will end the meeting in open session and formally take action. The Council first must open the special meeting in open session and allow for public comment before going into closed session.
Dudeck has been out for seven weeks now. His last day in the office was Feb. 26, the day he was told about allegations of administrative misconduct. Captain Nick Sutter has been running the department in his absence. Dudeck provided a doctor’s note to the town, and has been out sick since February. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township employees are still operating under separate sick day and vacation day policies. Officers from the Borough have unlimited sick days.
The police union has accused Dudeck of harassment and has threatened to sue if he does not retire. Originally the public safety committee for the town gave him until Monday, March 4 to decide whether to retire or face an investigation into the administrative charges. The deadline was then extended.
The governing body went back and forth debating the terms of any possible separation agreement. The Council is not considering offering Dudeck a traditional separation package with any kind of severance payment, but he will basically be paid to stay home until the fall if the contract is approved Thursday. As part of the deal, the police union would agree to drop its claims against him.
As of October 1, Dudeck will have worked on the police force for 30 years. His salary in 2011 was $164,780, according to state pension records. Officials have been weighing whether to offer him a contract that allows him to remain out on leave and then retire in the fall after he reaches the 30-year mark, which would mean an increase in his pension. He would also receive a bump in pay as part of the contract that is currently being negotiated with the police union. That raise would be retroactive to Jan. 1.
The allegations against Dudeck are spelled out in a narrative that was submitted to the town’s public safety committee. The narrative details about 22 incidents since 2010 when Dudeck allegedly used inappropriate language, which some have called “locker room language”, made allegedly inappropriate jokes, or made allegedly inappropriate gestures when talking to officers. The narrative of each incident lists all the witnesses who were present when Dudeck made the allegedly inappropriate comments. It does not single out individual complainants, however. The officers witnessing the incidents were all or almost all Borough officers, sources said.
No complaints for harassment were filed against Dudeck during his tenure as chief of the Princeton Borough Police Department, or during his 29-year tenure on the Princeton Borough Police Force. Officers allegedly were too intimidated to come forward earlier. The Borough did have a process for making complaints about any kind of harassment, and conducted an anonymous survey twice a year about harassment. The consolidated Princeton police department has a similar policy.
The allegations against Dudeck surfaced less than two months after consolidation. The case was referred to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, which is standard procedure when any allegations are made against a police chief. The police department’s internal affairs officer can not investigate the claims because it would be a conflict of interest.
A longtime football coach at the Hun School, Dudeck became chief of the Borough in 2009. He succeeded Anthony Federico, who died suddenly while on vacation in Maine. In the summer of 2012, Dudeck was named the police chief for the consolidated Princeton, but did not officially become the chief of the united town until Jan. 1.