Stopping the Fleecing of N.J. Pensions by Political Hacks

I know a former politician who after being a part time elected official for a number of years and perhaps having a menial public job somewhere, landed a very lucrative position in an independent public authority, plausibly to make a living but also to qualify for a juicy pension. The position was security chief and all he did was to convert the place in an Auschwitz-look-alike, and spend $ tens of thousands chasing the Canadian geese out of the grounds – a never ending crusade for the geese were incredibly persistent and multiplied… like geese do.

He also declared war against feral cats and red foxes. Two of the persecuted feral cats applied for political asylum at my house when they were babies and live happily here. This guy knew about security as much as I know about deep sea diving. That is zero.

I was engaged in an interesting debate with a friend of mine after my last article on pension returns and probably the only thing we agreed on was that the problem is pervasive: People with political connections (she disputed that her friend had any) hold menial or part time positions, or political office for a number of years, with low wages, and then as they reach the 20th or so year in the pension system, they talk to their political godfather or godmother or ally or political boss and voila – from one day to the next they become managers of things that they often have no idea how they work but which secure them juicy pensions after a few years on the public dole.

There are thousands of those cases. Christie himself has appointed a few, even at the Port Authority of NY and NJ.  Another instance is, I believe, the chief of the Delaware River Port Authority who is a former assemblyman or senator of NJ. But they are present at every level of government.  This type of thing is as Newjersian as apple pie is American.

Up to now, in my program, the line of defense against these abuses has passed not through the pension system but through civil service law. That is: I would very strongly advocate for a reform of CS Law so that almost every position in the public sector has to be open to the general public through conspicuous advertisement, examinations and/or professional vetting. Thus neither the governor nor anybody else could just pick someone and give him/her a public job, or worse, invent un unnecessary job to favor a political supporter, relative, etc.

The only exceptions would be at cabinet level, executive secretaries, etc. That is my concept of civil service reform.

But after the discussion with my friend I thought that there could also be a safety mechanism in the pensions themselves. That is: When there is a sudden and very large (we have to define very large) increase in wages, during the last ten (or so) years of public employment, then the retirement pension becomes a fraction (also to be defined) of the total employee contribution to the pension during the entire public career and not calculated on the last 5 years base-salary.

I am still turning  this idea around in my mind so it is by no means a finished product. But it would be an additional hoop pension abusers would have to jump through.

Obviously, all those in the N.J. Pension System today, such as the officials of the N.J. League of Municipalities, League of Counties, some legal and consulting firms associated with county governments, etc., who are not public employees, should be expelled from the New Jersey Pension System.

From left to right: Albert and Jimmy days after receiving refugee status at home

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Bankrupt City in R.I. Reduces Pensions Of Already Retired Police, Firefighters; Protects Bond-Holders

Pension Deal in Rhode Island Could Set a Trend – NYTimes.com.

A warning that nobody is untouchable and that we must carry out structural reforms here in New Jersey to methodically and comprehensively overcome our difficulties. And we can not solve our problems under the current two-party monopoly on power.

The Rhode Island case is a first and it could set a trend not only for police and firefighters but for all public retirees. The Rhode Island town in question gave preferential treatment to bond-holders over public retirees.

Private sector retirees have undergone these cuts for the last two decades as large corporations such as numerous airlines, Chrysler, GM, etc., filed for bankruptcy protection.

Christie Appoints More Part/Time Political Hacks Into Public Pension System

Christie slow to eliminate part-time employees from troubled retirement system | NJ.com.

The practice has been to allow part/time employees – often those well connected who make a living elsewhere – to join the New Jersey Public Retirement System where they qualify for life-time health benefits after just 10 years.

The jobs are often created just to accommodate those individuals and do not reflect any genuine or necessary function, or their functions do not make them public employees.

A dysfunctional civil service law allows the practice under the category “unclassified”.

During the campaign to reform the pensions which culminated with increased employee contributions, legislation was voted in which called for the removal of the part-timers from the system.

Christie has not only failed to comply but has added more persons into the system.

I shall, if elected governor in 2013, enforce that law and I will seek to make the date of passage of the legislation the cut-off date.