Category Archives: state pension system

NJ WATCHDOG INVESTIGATION: Senator Triple-Dipper

For Immediate Release:

NJ Lawmaker Has a Big Pension…Plus Two Public Paychecks!

MEET THE BIGGEST ‘TRIPLE-DIPPER’ IN THE NEW JERSEY STATEHOUSE: SEN. FRED MADDEN POCKETS $241,000 A YEAR IN PAY & PENSION

For New Jersey state Sen. Frederick Madden Jr., the path of public service also has been a road to personal wealth.
Madden collects more than $241,000 a year in public salaries plus retirement pay. He gets $49,000 as a legislator, a $106,983 as a police academy dean and an $85,272 annual pension as a State Police retiree.
Among the 15 legislators who draw state pensions and salaries, no one pockets more than the senator from the state’s 4th Legislative District, which includes parts of Gloucester and Camden counties.

Since he “retired” at age 48 nearly a decade ago, Madden has cashed $770,156 in New Jersey retirement checks. He will get more than $2.5 million, if he lives until age 80 — his statistical average life expectancy.

“I’ve earned that…” said Madden. “You can make it sound like I’m getting something I don’t deserve, and that’s wrong.”
For the complete New Jersey Watchdog investigative report and a list of double-dipping state lawmakers, click here – or visit www.njwatchdog.org.

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Filed under double dipping, Mark Lagerkvist, nj watchdog, press release, state pension system, triple dipping

NJ WATCHDOG INVESTIGATION: Attorney General’s 23 Double-Dippers Pocket Millions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

One-Day 'Retirements?' There Ought to Be a Law!

NJ ATTORNEY GENERAL'S 23 DOUBLE-DIPPERS POCKET MILLIONS; MOST RETIRE FOR ONE DAY, THEN COLLECT PENSIONS FOR LIFE

Edgar J. Hess “retired” from the New Jersey State Police at age 50, but he never left the Attorney General’s payroll. The next day, he began work at a state unit that investigates corruption.

Without really retiring, Hess has collected $712,000 in state pension checks since 2002. He currently gets $196,000 a year – an $80,000 pension plus a $116,000 salary as a lieutenant state investigator.

Hess is one of 23 double-dipping investigators and supervisors who work for Attorney General Paula T. Dow and her Division of Criminal Justice, a New Jersey Watchdog investigation revealed. In addition to their salaries, they draw pensions as retired employees of the Attorney General. Most retired for only one day.

Collectively, the 23 “retirees” receive $3.77 million a year – $1.56 million a year in pension pay plus $2.21 million in state salaries. On average, they each pocket $164,000 a year – $96,000 in salary and nearly $68,000 from pension. 

The retirement schemes are typically inside jobs – deals that quietly slip through loopholes in pension law. Like Hess, many retirees are rehired so quickly they never miss a payday from the Attorney General, who is in charge of both DCJ and State Police.  In the 23 double-dipping cases examined by New Jersey Watchdog:

  • 14 officers were rehired the day after they retired.
  • Two others were rehired within a week of retirement.
  • Only seven officers left the payroll for at least 30 days, as required by state pension rules.

Click here or visit www.njwatchdog.org for the full story.  Investigative reporter Mark Lagerkvist can be reached at Mark@Lagerkvist.net.


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Filed under double dipping, NJ State Police, nj watchdog, pension loopholes, retirees, state pension system

>Tough Cop Bob Brown Takes on Governor Christie

>Democratic State Senate Candidate Bob Brown, who is running for the open Senate seat in the new 12th legislative district, has hit the campaign trail running even though the general election is some 7 months away.

Bob Brown, who has run unsuccessfully for the State Assembly during the past two campaign cycles in the old 13th district has filmed a Youtube video (see below) that stakes out his position on the under funded NJ pension system.

It’s definitely worth checking out.

Former police officer and attorney Bob Brown is speaking out for current and retired New Jersey police and firefighters. The New Jersey police and firefighters pension fund is underfunded by seven billion dollars! Bob blames Governor Chris Christie and past governors for taking a tax holiday and not contributing to the fund while police and firefighters continued to contribute. Bob says it’s time to stop blaming police and firefighters for the state’s fiscal incompetence and is asking the Governor to be less of a bully and sit down with him to come up with a solution.

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Filed under 12th district, Bob Brown, Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey State Senate Candidate, state pension system, YouTube

>Doesn’t Anyone Remember Christine Whitman?

>In a CountyFair blog post on the website MediaMatters.org, blogger Jamison Foser asks a simple question “ Doesn’t Anyone Remember Christine Whitman?

It’s a great read and analogy of what transpired in the early 1990’s when young Republican Governors were swept into office and faced huge budget deficits after Bill Clinton became President and what is happening today.

“A young Democrat is elected President on a theme of hope and change, does some of the things he was elected to do, Republicans howl and win control of Congress in a landslide mid-term election, and the media becomes infatuated with a new crop of Republican governors who are trying to dramatically reconfigure state budgets.

“That’s a reasonable summary of the current state of affairs, but it also describes the first few years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. But it isn’t the similarity that’s striking: After all, there’s a reason the phrase “history has a way of repeating itself” exists. Or, perhaps more appropriately: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” See, what’s really striking about the current situation is how few reporters seem to remember what happened in the 1990s.

Most notably, the past few weeks have seen massive media attention paid to state budget deficits, and attempts by Republican governors like Chris Christie to blame out-of-control pension obligations for those deficits (even as they pursue deficit-increasing tax cuts…”

Foser goes on to talk about how NJ Governor Christie Whitman cut taxes and raided the state pension fund in order to close New Jersey’s budget gap even though many critics warned that the State Pension system would see significant shortfall 15-20 years down the road, which of course is what is happening to be now!

“Whitman was one of those star Republican governors of the early 1990s. Like so many other Republican governors who win media attention for innovative approaches, she made her name through the not-so-innovative strategy of cutting taxes. Since she had to offset those tax cuts in order to balance New Jersey’s budget, she reduced payments into the state’s pension system. And that, as the New York Times noted last August, “contributed to the growth of the unfunded liability” that is now widely blamed for New Jersey’s budget shortfall.”

He went on to state that none of this should have come as a surprise to anyone because “when Whitman was defunding the pension system in order to cut taxes, there were warnings that this is exactly what would happen. Here, for example, is a September 5, 1994 Washington Post article:
“The first thing Christine Todd Whitman did upon taking office as governor of New Jersey in January was to cut the state’s income tax. Then in July, as she signed into law her first state budget, the Republican cut taxes again while simultaneously closing the huge deficit left by her predecessor.

This is what her supporters call the Whitman miracle, the fiscal accomplishment that has sent her stock soaring among New Jersey’s voters and transformed her on the national scene from a political unknown into one of the Republican Party’s newest stars.

But the key to the Whitman miracle lies neither in her political philosophy nor in her spending cuts, but rather in the fine print of her budget. Contained there is a series of arcane fiscal changes that some experts say amount to this: Christine Todd Whitman has balanced New Jersey’s books and paid for her tax cut by quietly diverting more than $1 billion from the state’s pension fund.

Whitman calls what she did a “reform” of the pension system that puts it on a more “sound actuarial footing.” Others are less charitable. The one thing that even the actuarial consultants hired by the Whitman administration agree on, however, is that the chief effect of the changes will be to shift billions of dollars in pension obligations onto New Jersey taxpayers 15 to 20 years from now.”


“At best, this represents a gamble that the state’s economy in the early part of the next century will be stronger than it is today and better able to shoulder pension responsibilities. At worst, according to fiscal experts, Whitman’s move represents politics at its most cynical.

In recent years financially strapped governments around the country — including Washington, D.C., and New York state — have raided their pension funds for cash, gambling that when the bills come due their local economies will be in a better position to pay them.

“The New Jersey pension system was highly rated in terms of its fiscal integrity,” said [Henry] Raimondo of the Eagleton Institute. “Now that’s compromised. She has effectively slowed down” the amount of “money going into the system, and in around 2010 the liability to New Jersey taxpayers is going to grow dramatically.”

Foser concluded his post by adding:
“Let’s review: A Republican governor of New Jersey reduced payments to the state pension system so she could cut taxes. Critics warned doing so would cause significant budget shortfalls in 2010. 2010 rolled around, and — surprise! — so did budget shortfalls. And now those shortfalls are used by New Jersey’s current Republican governor (along with many in the media) to justify cutting pensions (while again cutting taxes.)

Basically, conservatives have staged an end-run around having a public debate over cutting pensions in order to pay for tax cuts. Rather than making the argument that tax cuts are more important than pensions, they just went ahead and cut taxes, raiding the pension system in the process, then waited 15 years for predictable — and predicted — deficits, which they now point to as evidence that the pension system is unsustainably generous. And they’ve done it with the help of countless news organizations that fall for this shell game.”

You really need to read the full post, it’s fascinating how history has once again repeated itself.
You can read it >>> here

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Filed under 60 Minutes, Bill Clinton, Bill O'Reilly, budget deficit, Gov. Christie Whitman, Media Matters, New Jersey, pension deficit, Republican Governors, state pension system, tax cuts

Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) – The Ticking Time Bomb

From Sean Byrnes’s Moblize Middletown Blog:

Many of us have heard the warning cries over the condition of our State’s pension system. Estimates suggest we are $50 billion in the hole. Governor Whitman’s actions to revalue the pension system’s assets and subsequent failures to provide funding have created a canyon-sized shortfall. I am hoping that Governor Christie will act swiftly to end our system of defined benefit pensions and move us to a defined contribution pension system where employees fund their own pensions. We cannot continue to promise employees fixed amounts of money in retirement with no legitimate system for funding these obligations.

But our State’s failures when it comes to employee benefits have not been limited to pensions. I recently received Middletown’s audit for 2008 and noticed a comment section dealing with Other Post Employment Benefits (“OPEB”). I had not previously seen this term. As it turns out, many employees are counting on OPEB; namely, health benefits during their retirement. And, of course, our State and local municipalities have been promising generous benefits.

Statewide, estimates by PEW show New Jersey at the bottom when it comes to funding these benefits. New Jersey has the highest unfunded actuarially accrued benefit liability (UAAL) among all states. It also has the highest per capita debt with a value of $7,947, which reflects a UAAL of 139.66 as a percent of the state budget and an Annual Required Contribution toward these accrued benefits of 11.85 percent. In terms of real numbers, New Jersey should be contributing $1.88 billion each year toward these benefits, but actually contributes $310 million.

Unfortunately, Middletown’s numbers are worse. Middletown promises health benefits for life to those employees who earn a pension. I will confess that I did not have a full understanding of where Middletown stood when it came to funding retiree health benefits. Returning to the Comment in the 2008 audit, I noted that Middletown’s “Annual Required Contribution (ARC) for the year ended December 31, 2008 was $10,196,400 of which $1,659,200 was funded by the amount expended for these benefits.” I was astounded. If I was reading this correctly and understanding it, we underfunded our OPEB obligation by $8,537,200.

Why has this obligation flown under the radar? Until recently, local entities made these commitments without any requirement to show this obligation on their balance sheets. It has been “pay as you go”, meaning that you pay the health benefits as they come due, but you don’t set aside funds in advance. But the reporting requirements have changed. Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 45 (GASB 45) now requires disclosure. While these substantial financial commitments remain off the official books of local governments, municipalities must now provide actuarial estimates of what these accrued liabilities amount to. Staring in 2008, municipalities with more than 100 employees were required to provide information concerning their OPEB liability. Local Finance Notice 2009-13R outlined this requirement:

Local authorities are required to recognize the OPEB liability in Statements of Revenues, Expenses and Changes in Net Assets (balance sheets) and Notes to the Financial Statements in accordance with GASB Statement 45.

I recently learned that Middletown had contracted for this required study. We received it in November 2009. Through 37 pages, it reviews Middletown’s obligations and explains how the annual required contribution (ARC) of over $10 million is calculated. While someone might quibble with some of the assumptions, there seems to be little question that Middletown’s taxpayers have a growing financial obligation that remains severely underfunded.

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Filed under health benefits and pension, Middletown NJ, Moblize Middletown, Other post employment benefits(OPEB), s, Sean F. Byrnes, state pension system

Assemblyman Thomspon’s Attempt At A Smackdown Results In A Returned Jab

Below is an email exchange that was sent to me, between 13th District Assemblyman Republican Sam Thompson and former Independent Candidate Sean Dunne.

Dunne ran as an Independent for the State Assembly this year and took exception with how Thompson presented himself during interviews with the Asbury Park Press and the local Independent and the subsequent endorsements by those papers of Sam Thompson and his running mate Amy Handlin.
Mr. Dunne wrote a scathing letter to the Asbury Park Press (which I posted) that addressed their overtly biased favortism for Mr. Thompson’s candidacy in the 13th District. The letter went on to say how Thompson supported the construction and delpoyment of Liquid Natural Gass (LNG) terminals along the bayshore and how one of Thompson’s secrataries, Lucille Panos, is a classic pension fund double dipper.

Mrs. Panos is an elected Councilwoman in Old Bridge who earns a $6,000 stipen for that position and as a member of Sam Thompson’s staff earns another $27,500 a year towards her State pension.
On a personal note, it is also an affirmation of this blog’s influence and readership. The MiddeltownMike blog was the only place that Mr. Dunne’s letter was published.
I feel that the email is very telling, it show the level of entitlement in which Sam Thompson feels is owed to him as an assemblyman:
November 7, 2009

Dear Mr. Dunn:

A blog that you had posted and a flyer that you had distributed in the campaign has been brought to my attention.

Sir, if you choose to attack in any way, that is your prerogative and I rarely bother with responding to opponents’ distortions relative to myself. However, I will not tolerate statements that print distorted pictures of my employees in and attempt to take a shot at me.

Your inferences with regards to Lucille Panos are totally unjustified and border on defamatory.

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.

Ms. Panos, as well as al of my staff members, do an outstanding job of providing all of these services, far and above the level you will find in any other legislative office in the State.

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.

As you had this information, you obviously have access to the State payroll data, probably from the APP web-site. If you will check it further, you will find she is the lowest paid of my threes employees – not because of the quality of her work but simply because she was hired years after the other two and that was all the salary funds I had left. I assure you, her performance merits a much higher pay. If you go further and compare her salary with that of staffers in other legislative offices, I have no doubt it will be among the lowest.

As for the “handsome pension” at taxpayer expense that she is in line for, if she continued in government employment until she reached 27 ½ years of service her $29,500” State salary plus her gigantic $6,000 council stipend would entitle her to a “handsome” pension of $17, 750/year. WOW!

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.

You owe Ms. Panos an apology.

Sam Thompson

Dunne’s reply:

Dear Sam,

I do not know of the blog you are referring to, as I don’t run a blog. My campaign did include a website and a Facebook profile, but we didn’t use a blog. However, perhaps someone has taken information I have sent out and published it on their own blog.

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.

Yours sincerely,
Sean Dunne

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Sam Thompson, Sean Dunne, state pension system, the Independent

Middletown’s Patrick Short Has Kept all of His Promises and Does Not Accept Township Benefits

Middletown’s Democratic Committeeman Patrick Short is the only elected official in the State that does not accept a salary, does not take health benefits and does not participate in the NJ State Pension System.

He has kept every promise to the voter that he made while seeking office in 2006 such as not, not voting to raise our municipal tax rate, not taking health benefits, not participating in the state pension system, and establishing pay-to-play and ethics reform ordinances.

While others on the Township Committee and those who seek office can talk-the-talk, Patrick Short has shown that he walks-the-walk and gets result.

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Filed under health benefits and pension, Middletown Democrats, Middletown NJ, Patrick Short, state pension system