Teterboro Airport (KTEB), New Jersey
Steve Hockstein/ The Star-Ledger
A June file photo of Teterboro Airport, where Port Authority police officer Thomas Jardines worked before his suspension.
Prior to Thomas Jardines suspension, he was assigned to the Teterboro Airport (KTEB) Unit, a five-person team responsible for patrolling the Bergen County facility and responding to crashes.
A veteran Port Authority police officer was suspended for 45 days without pay Monday after he was videotaped responding to fires and doing other work as the Jefferson Township volunteer fire chief on days he called in sick to the Port Authority, agency officials said.
The officer, Thomas Jardines, will lose just over $11,000 based on his police officer’s salary of $90,000, which is posted along with other employee salary information on the Port Authority website, www.panynj.gov. Jardines made $19,986 in overtime in 2011, according to the site.
The Port Authority said its inspector general’s office launched an investigation last year after flagging Jardines for an unusually high number of sick days over a period of several months. Officials said investigators from the office later videotaped him fighting fires on days he had called in sick.
On one occasion, agency officials said, Jardines was videotaped washing a fire truck after having called in sick at his Port Authority job for what he said was a shoulder injury.
The officials asked not to be named because the case involves a personnel matter.
The agency said one of Jardines’ sick days was on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. More than 80 Port Authority employees, including 37 Port Authority police officers, died in the attacks.
Jardines has served as chief of Jefferson Township Fire Company No. 2, a volunteer department, for the past two years, Mayor Russell Felter said.
Felter said he was surprised and saddened to hear of Jardines’ case.
"From everything I know about him, he’s always been a straight shooter," the mayor said last night. "He’s gone out of his way to follow our procedures and we’ve been happy with him as chief."
Jardines, who lives less than a block from Lake Hopatcong in Jefferson, could not be reached for comment Monday.
On his page at fireengineering.com, a firefighters website, he indicates he has worked for the Port Authority since 1988, with duties that included fire suppression. Prior to his suspension, he was assigned to the Teterboro Airport Unit, a five-person team responsible for patrolling the Bergen County facility and responding to crashes.
The Jardines case comes amid an ongoing investigation by the Port Authority inspector general’s office into a police testing scandal which has led to the dismissal, forced retirement or demotion of several high-ranking officers. The investigation began after officials said the former commander of the department’s internal affairs unit took cell phone pictures of questions on the lieutenant’s exam.
Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents Jardines, issued a statement Monday criticizing the agency for releasing information about Jardines’ suspension.
"With all the urgency that’s going on in the world, I’m glad to see that a Port Authority Police administrative adjudication is newsworthy," Nunziato said.
Port Authority officials said Jardines’ 45-day "compulsory leave" is a disciplinary action that spares him his job and his pension.
When he returns to work, Jardines will no longer be assigned to the Teterboro unit, a Port Authority spokesman said. Instead, he will transferred to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, a much larger, more closely supervised unit with a substantially longer commute from his home in Morris County, the official said.