December 09, 2005

Freeholders' Performance Didn't Deserve a Pay Raise

Union County Freeholders Dan Sullivan and Deborah Scanlon appear to be a bit miffed that they have been pushed to give up their taxpayer supplied SUVs. Their Scarlet O’Hara mindset of “tomorrow is another day” appears to have kicked in and along with their trusty sidekick, County Manager George Devaney, have managed to come up with the perfect we’ll-get-even plan of corrective action.

Not wanting to be left out of the fun and since no one or two freeholders can act on their own, the rest of the “gang of nine” seem to have jumped on the bandwagon and are preparing to vote themselves and George a nice fat pay increase taking effect after Jan. 1, 2006.

Already the fifth highest paid freeholder board in the state, they will be boosting their salaries, for their part-time jobs, by 5.3 percent, and the county manager’s salary by 5 percent. Obviously all of us would love to be able to control our salaries and that of our friends and relatives; however, that is surely not the case of the average county resident. And it is highly improbable that the average resident received an increase of this size from their employer this past year, if they received a raise at all.

Freeholder Vice Chairman Al Mirabella, in a Star-Ledger article on the subject, said that they were compensating for the raising cost of living. Well, perhaps Mr. Mirabella, if you didn’t raise the county taxes almost 50 percent in the last five years you wouldn’t feel the pinch quite so much, ever think of that?

And this past summer, Freeholder Dan Sullivan appeared to be almost apologetic when talking about county-owned vehicles which some employees, including himself, were in possession of 24/7.

He said he would be turning in his tax payer-subsidized SUV supposedly because during these difficult economic times it was just not good policy to expect taxpayers to finance the use/operation/gas and insurance of vehicles for workers whose county job duties did not demand they be mobile around the clock.

What a guy! But wait! A nice raise would certainly help defray the costs of securing a vehicle of his own to commute daily to his state job in Trenton.

Freeholder Nancy Ward, reelected this past November, was asked at the freeholder debates how much a freeholder earns, she responded that she didn’t know because she had “direct deposit,” in up-speak no less.

It is a pretty good bet that she will approve an increase to her pay since she doesn’t know what the numbers are anyway, and to think that this woman participates in spending over $1 million of taxpayer funds each day. How does someone not know what they earn?

Further, County Manager George Devaney, the nephew of State Senator Ray Lesniak, should be subjected to a performance review by an independent entity before he is rewarded with a 5 percent raise to his already six-figure compensation package. One has to assume that keeping spending in check would be one of his job duties and with that in mind he has failed miserably evidenced once again by the almost 10 percent increase to the 2005 county operating budget.

Rather than deserving a raise for a job well done, this freeholder board has instead betrayed the trust that the residents have put in them.
They have:
* raised taxes an average of 10 percent a year over the last five years
* paid large monetary settlements to former employees because of mismanaged employment practices
* allowed the irresponsible misuse of county owned vehicles
* comprised the quality of life of residents along the reactivated train line
* allowed a child to die, on Mother's Day, while entrusted to the care of the County Juvenile Detention Center

All the while holding no one responsible and no one accountable - least of all themselves.