August 07, 2007

Latest employee lawsuit a mere ‘employee benefits issue’

At the July 26 regular meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders the following resolution was passed: 2007-750 …….appointed representation for the County of Union and George W. Devanney in the matter entitled Richard P. Rodbart, et al v. UC, et als.

During public comment I asked for an explanation of the complaint noting the fact that the County Manager was being sued by a county employee again. The flustered County Counsel (who by the way came to Union County directly from working for Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski until he joined the F.B.I.’s Witness Protection Program) responded with obvious distain for the nuisance that I fully acknowledge that I am, that the County Manager wasn’t being sued, it was a mere “employee benefits issue”.

Not being one to take the county council, (especially one that worked for Bobby J., who if you don’t remember was the county executive that was found to have file cabinets filled with cash), or anyone else sitting up on that dais’ word on anything, I placed an Open Public Records Act request for the complaint which I picked-up today.

The Union County Watchdog Association continually requests to view public documents despite the fact that we are frequently lambasted by the county Public Information Department for what they call excessive records requests.

As if we could rely on the county to inform us. If it weren’t for our records request the public may have not know for some time that the “employee benefits issue” involves 7 former employees of the Prosecutor’s Office who all responded to the Union County Early Retirement Program in 2001 and all are suing the Union County Manager, who was authorized by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders to offer the Early Retirement Incentive Program to the Plaintiffs.

Richard P. Rodbart
James Durkin
James A. Hart
Peter A. McCord
David F. Regal
Kenneth N. Siegel
Lawrence C. Wlazlo

At issue is “removal of the existing cap on the retiree health benefit subsidy to provide fully paid health benefits for life”. The plaintiffs are taking issue with the county for not paying Medicare supplement payments which will be due and owing upon reaching the age of 65.

View complaint HERE.

I have no idea what the costs of this could be to the tax-payers. If it isn’t in a document that can be obtained by the OPRA than the county simply doesn’t answer questions.

The cost of this lawsuit is added to the fact that recently the Assistant Prosecutor’s contracts include retirement packages with life-time health benefits. The early retirement for 183 employees last summer has cost the County of Union $9.3 million instead of saving $8.5 million over five years as originally thought by county officials, according to a Star-Ledger article published on October 8, 2006, which quoted a study commissioned by the state Division of Pensions and Benefits.

County Manager George Devanney called the report “flawed.” The county’s own study, he said, determined the program would save $15 million over 20 years.