Below is an email exchange that was sent to me, between 13th District Assemblyman Republican Sam Thompson and former Independent Candidate Sean Dunne.
It is true Lucille Panos is employed by my office, but at a rate of $27,500. She is not employed for “Special Services.” I assume you use this term to suggest this may be a no show job. Ms. Panos is one of three Legislative Aides employed by my office as well as one full-time unpaid, volunteer aide. She is a full-time employee and you will find her in my office from 9-5 Monday thru Friday, the same as all State employees. She is not entitled to “Special Projects.” Nor is anyone else in this office. Instead, she and all staff members devote all of their time to providing constituent services, responding to correspondence, telephone calls and working one-on-one with constituents to resolve their problems which run the gamut of homestead rebates, property tax freeze, enrollment in prescription drug plans, ascertaining the most suitable Medicare Part D plan, resolving disputes with healthcare plans, assistance with utilities, etc.
As for her salary, it is actually $27,500 not $29,500. As none of my employees had received any raise for several years due to unavailability of funds, this year I was able to persuade leadership to provide and additional $5,000 on a one time basis to distribute to my staff but this did not increase their base salary and there is no guarantee that I will be able to get it again next year.
Should you doubt the above statements about her work, we do have a database some 17,000 constituents we have serviced one–on–one. Further, I would be delighted to take you to any of several locations where you can wander around on your own and inquire relative to the quality of the services of Lucille Panos and my office. If interested, let me know.
Just to be clear, I have no doubt your office fills out forms and provides other advice to consituents. NJ runs confused government services that many people are very frustrated with. Many taxpayers want this improved, because accessible services are the least they should get for their money. Instead, we have offices like yours that have three full-time employees that must decipher forms for people. This is very symbolic of New Jersey fiscal policy. Why save money and make government services easy to access, when we can instead pay three full-time people in one District office to translate the confusion?
As for the other information that you discuss in your email to me. I would suggest you examine the Data Universe section of the Asbury Park Press site. If you feel that the information is a distortion, you should immediately contact them. Go to the section and conduct a search for Lucille Panos.
It states the following:
PANOS, LUCILLE THE LEGISLATURE LEGISLATIVE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS, STAFF SERVICES SPECIAL SERVICES $0.00 $0.00 $29,500.00
This does not appear to include the bonus you obtained for her, as it refers only the year 2008, so as you said, her earnings from your office are actually $32,500. If you do not like the work she provides for your office to be defined as “Special Services”, then I would once again advise you to contact the Asbury Park Press. Perhaps you feel that readers of the website will think that the title, “Special Services”, implies a no-show job. If so, you might be able to persuade them to change that label.
I do not follow your claim regarding Lucille Panos and Special Projects, so I am unable to comment on it. I don’t even understand what “Special Projects” are. I can only say that I have never mentioned anything regarding “Special Projects”.
You have made it clear in your email that you would like Panos to have a much higher pension, as you want to increase her salary even more. I’ll therefore wait, along with other taxpayers, to see how handsome her pension might become.
Your claim that I make distortions regarding your own positions is totally false, and I consider that an insult. You stated in our meeting with the Asbury Park Press that you have no problem receiving nearly $50,000 a year. You also called yourself a full-time legislator in the Independent. I wish this were a distortion, but unfortunately for taxpayers, it is not. I cannot think of one other area of employment where someone would say with a straight face that they deserve a full-time salary for a part-time job because they consider their work a full-time job. But again, this is New Jersey.
You told me twice that you supported the construction of Liquefied Natural Gas Terminals off the Jersey Coast. First at Hazlet Day, and second at the meeting with the Asbury Park Press when others were present. Again, I wish this were a distortion, but unfortunately it is not. I hope you reconsider this position on this project, because it is a terrible plan.
To claim that I distort your positions on any of the above is an outright lie, and you now owe me an explanation.
I do not take lightly an accusation that I lie, which is why I immediately responded to your unfounded claims. It’s amazing that providing information to voters is considered an “attack”, but I guess that’s one more part of the problem in New Jersey politics.
I have no doubt that you could take me to places where people are pleased with the services your office has provided. I’d be more than happy to take the tour you suggest, as I am always eager to learn. However, this should be a two-stop tour. First, we’ll have a meeting with people your office has helped. Second, we’ll meet with taxpayers that I’ve met who are absolutely sick of this kind of politics. I’m sure we both could learn something from that tour.
I look forward to hearing your explanation of how I have distorted anything about your positions or political beliefs. When you realize that your claim is unfounded, you can then issue your apology.