>How close does Gerry Scharfenberger get to crossing to the line between honesty and deception when he discusses his new position as Executive Director of the Office of Planning Advocacy and how it effects his status serving as an elected official in Middletown?
Since it became common knowledge 10 days ago that Scharfenberger was appointed by Governor Christie to a $95,000 a year job, the uproar over his silence (not appointment), doesn’t seem to be going away. If anything it raises more questions after articles in both the Independent and Two River Times did little to silence his critics.
Both articles state that he is a “Volunteer” and doesn’t take a salary from the town. The Two River Times quotes him as saying, “I’m not taking a salary as Mayor. It’s a volunteer position much (like) the Landmark Commission and the Drug and Alcohol Alliance”.
Really, how is that possible? As member of the Township Committee each elected member is entitled to a $4,000 a year stipend (which Scharfenberger announced during the Lincroft Village Green Association sponsored Candidates Night, to our surprise, that he was not taking this salary). Each member of the Township Committee receives this stipend regardless if they are appointed as Mayor or not. There is no extra pay associated with the Mayor’s position and never has been, essentially every person who has served as Mayor in Middletown for the past 5 decades has done it “voluntarily” upon being chosen by others on the Committee to act as such.
To consider any elected official, whether it is as Mayor or Committee member, as a volunteer is a stretch of the word, volunteers are generally appointed and receive no compensation or they serve as a means of helping others with no expectations of reward for their humble service. Those that seek office campaign and are elected to office by voters, many go on to seek higher office or seek special favors from those in higher positions to advance their ambitions or line their pockets, much like Scharfenberger has done. To call them volunteers is a gross exaggeration of the word.
Gerry seems to be playing word games here that come very close to crossing the line between honesty and deceit. Another example of his word games is his pension status, he says he isn’t enrolled in the State pension system known as PERS but contributes to a deferred compensation 401K plan.
This I found out is true, not because he dropped out of the PERS system voluntarily, but because of the fact that as of 2008, all part time elected officials were dropped from the system and given the chance to participate in a state sponsored 401K plan to save costs.
Back in 2007, when Democrat Patrick Short proposed that elected and part-time officials in Middletown give up health and pension benefits, Scharfenberger is on record stating that he was in the township pension system and adamant that he could not get out of it as hard as he tried, he stated at the time, “Once you’re in you are in and can’t get out of it … and I tried”.
Again very close to the line between honesty and deceit, but I think I may have stumbled upon something that just may show that Scharfenberger did in fact cross that line.
In the audio clip below from the Oct. 28, 2010 LVGA Candidates Night, Scharfenberger was asked about the salaries for Township Committee people. At the time I didn’t give it much thought, I just assumed that the questioner was curious about whether or not Committee members were once again collecting stipends in 2010 after giving them up in 2009. When answering Scharfenberger went into his volunteer speech and talked about how he wasn’t taking a salary. He came across as a hero of sorts, looking out for the town with this symbolic gesture of kindness during tough economic times. He didn’t seem to care that by doing so he trashed his fellow Committee members.
In hindsight however, I’ve come to believe that this simple question was nothing more than plant from a supporter that knew Scharfenberger was appointed by Governor Christie to head up the Office of Planning Advocacy. Gerry wanted to go on record that he was in compliance with Christie’s rule that, No elected official could serve dual rolls within the State unless the position that they were elected to would be carried out voluntarily, hence the announcement that he hadn’t taken a salary all year.
In light of the two previously mentioned articles that didn’t delve into the story of Scharfenberger’s appointment like the Asbury Park Press
had (the reporters chose not to question Scharfenberger over his volunteer status), I’ve spent the past few days looking over the Township Bill List and from what I’ve determined, this time Gerry just may have crossed the line into outright deception.
Here’s what I have determined:
Committee members took no salaries for most of 2009.
- For 2010, each Committee member earns $153.84 per week gross.
- The March 2010 Bills List shows $2526.66 as the salary line item. However, at that time, they were including the Mayor’s secretary in that line item. Later in the year, she is broken out separately, and her bi-weekly salary is $1,757.46.
- If you go back to the March payment of bills and subtract her salary ($1,757.46) from that line item ($2526.66), you get $769.20.
- Drum roll please . . . if you divide $769.20 by Committee members gross weekly pay ($153.84), guess what number you get . . . 5 (How many Township Committee people do we have?).
- Conclusion = Gerry was still taking a salary in March.
So, then we go to August. On the 10-206 payment of bills documents there is still a line item for Township Committee salaries of $2526.66, so Gerry was still taking his stipend as of Payroll for 8/6/10. However, the next bill list 10-234 for the 8/20/10 payroll, the line item goes down to $2372.82.
When broken down, remembering there is $1757.46 for the Mayor’s secretary, and you subtract her salary from the new total salary line item ($2372.82), you get $615.36 (which also happens to be the new salary line item on the November bill list where the Township Committee is now listed separately). When you divide $615.36 by that bi-weekly salary of $153.84, you get 4.
Conclusion = Gerry stopped taking his salary after the 8/6/10 payroll,which corresponds with his knowledge of his appointment by Christie to his new State job, NOT in January, as he lead those at the LVGA Candidates night and the reporters from the Independent and the Two River Times to believe and report.
Over the past few years there has been many such instances of Scharfenberger walking the tightrope between honesty and deceit, always choosing his words very carefully to maintain that balancing act. This time however, he may have gone to far by not figuring that someone other than the a reporter, who’s job it is to investigate before reporting, would take the time to do some homework and find that Gerry once again wasn’t being completely honest and crossed the line into deceitfulness.
I wonder if anyone will ask him to explain himself tonight at the Township Committee meeting?