At the last freeholder meeting an ordinance was introduced which simply stated “An ordinance fixing the salaries of county officials and department heads”.
During public comment I asked who would be receiving raises and the freeholder chairwoman refused to give any details. She instead instructed me to place an Open Public Records Act Request with the clerk. At the end of the meeting I spoke out as the freeholders were leaving the dais “Did you not answer me because you are ashamed of the raises? You should be you don’t deserve them”.
Bruce Paterson of Garwood also asked for the information during public comment and was instructed to place an OPRA request with the clerk. He stated he wanted to see the ordinance before determining “whether you deserve the raises.” He later read the first part of his “Union County Countdown to Disaster – 2007,” which he reads each December to the freeholders. He summed up a list of lawsuits against the county, county tax hikes, the use of county cars for non-work activities and a photo opportunity for a county freeholder candidate staged in front of the county’s new homeland security boat as well as the many investigations by both the State and Federal Attorney General’s offices. Mr. Paterson said county government continues to use “waste, mismanagement and corruption” in its operations.
After obtaining the full text of the ordinance through OPRA it was confirmed that the freeholders and the County Manager and Deputy County Manager will be receiving retroactive pay raises. Which means they are getting pay raises for the new year and a Christmas bonus for the past year.
A Westfield Leader article quotes county director of public information Sebastian D’Elia as stating the raises place the Union County freeholder salaries to fourth highest among New Jersey’s 21 counties. However, documents obtained by placing OPRA’s to all 20 counties reveal Union County will now be the third highest paid freeholder board behind Essex and Hudson counties respectively. The county director of public information was also quoted as stating the county has the “fourth or fifth” highest population in the state. However, according to 2006 census information on all 21 counties posted on the New Jersey State website Union County has the seventh highest population in the state.
Our county manager, who is State Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, became a Union County employee when two part-time positions were created for him Deputy County Manager and Director of Economic Development. He was appointed to the county manager position in 2001. Lesniak’s nephew is the third highest paid county administrator in the state behind Middlesex and Somerset who do not employ deputy executives. The Somerset county executive has been a county employee for 37 years.
Freeholders are part-time positions. They will now be paid $30,385 an increase of $885. The Chairman will earn $32,445 and increase of 945 and the vice-chairman will receive $31,415 and increase of $915. The County Manager will now earn $163,831 an increase of $6,301 and the Deputy County Manager $142,440 an increase of $4,817.
This Thursday, Dec. 20 the Union County freeholders will have the final reading of the ordinance. They will then allow public comment and most likely vote 9-0 in favor. Merry Christmas taxpayers.