January 29, 2008

OMG! Who's hooking him up?

Niel Palmieri. The name might not ring a bell but you might recall a Star-Ledger article, way back when the Ledger had a reporter covering Union County, about a county employee who was allowed to rent a county house for $300 a month. The house featured 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, a fireplace and sat on 1.3 acres in Summit. The county paid roughly $10,000 a year in property taxes on the house and Palmieri paid $3,600 a year to live in it. Cost to taxpayers: roughly $6,000 a year.

Out of county residency
Palmieri, who is the division head of building services and had an annual salary in 2007 of $106,162 (up from $66,770 in 2000) has since moved to Monmouth County, against the Laws of Union County which clearly state:

B. It shall be the duty of the appointing authority to ensure that all full-time employees hired after November 10, 1983, are and remain bona fide residents of the County of Union during employment. Failure of any such employee to be a resident of the County of Union prior to employment or to maintain residency in the County of Union during employment shall be cause for removal or discharge from service.

County take-home vehicle
Niel Palmieri is allowed use of a county take home 2002 Ford Explorer. Palmieri’s boss, Joseph Grazziano, does not have use of a county take home vehicle. Palmieri is one of only two employees in his division that have this privilege. The other is Freeholder Dan Sullivan’s brother.

Free gas
Palmieri's county issued 2002 Ford Explorer had the sixth highest fuel consumption among 64 employees with the same privileges in 2007. The other five were law enforcement officers. Palmieri used 1,225.9 gallons of gas at a cost of $2.11 per gallon average to cost taxpayers $2,586.65.

The Laws of Union County has this to say about the county cars:
A. All County cars assigned to those individuals who reside outside of Union County will be restricted to Union County.

H. It shall be the policy of the County of Union that the use of a County-assigned vehicle by an employee shall be limited to official County business, and said vehicle shall not be used for personal purposes with the exception of authorized commuting use to and from the employee's workstation.

Home Internet Service
Out of 2,842 county employees, Niel Palmieri is one of 10 that are currently having their home internet service paid for by the taxpayers. Not even his boss has his home internet service paid for. Heck, four of the 9 freeholders do not have their home internet services paid for! (Side Note: the other five have never returned even one of my email inquiries, if they don't communicate with taxpayers then why are we paying for their toys?). The county manager, deputy county manager, clerk of the board and the Director of Personnel also have taxpayer-funded home internet service. This information did not come easy - but that's another blog.

Palmieri has one.

All of these taxpayer funded privileges, and exceptions to the county’s laws, leaves this watchdog to wondering who Palmieri's BFF is.

This old house at $300 a month - Star-Ledger

Employee vehicles and gas consumption

The Laws of Union County