Target: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Goal: Close loopholes allowing abuse of taxpayer-funded pension system in New Jersey
It is common practice for law enforcement officers to retire after 25 years on the job and receive a sizeable percentage of their salary in the form of a pension for their quarter-century of service. In New Jersey, at least 51 county sheriffs and under-sheriffs continue to collect a taxpayer-funded pension while working full-time for other law enforcement agencies and collecting a separate, taxpayer-funded salary. This practice, which is completely legal, is known as “double dipping” and it allows these officials to earn a generous six-figure income on New Jersey taxpayers’ dimes. As state Senator Jennifer Beck said: “The pension system is to support you when you’re done working. It isn’t there for you to enrich yourself by taking on another public salary.”
According to the New Jersey Watchdog group, the 51 sheriff’s office officials exposed collect an average annual salary of around $179,000 per year with $72,000 of that amount coming from pensions. This after Republican Governor Chris Christie’s pension reforms of 2011 in which pensions and benefits of state employees were cut in order to help get the system out of a major deficit. The worst offender is Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino who collects an annual salary of $138,000 from the county while still collecting a yearly pension from Emerson Township, where he served as police chief, of $129,984; a total yearly income of $267,984.
This is simply outrageous, especially considering that thousands of state workers have suffered cuts to smaller pensions while actually in retirement or at least not receiving a salary from another government position. We ask Governor Chris Christie, as well as all New Jersey lawmakers, to close the loopholes allowing these extremely well-paid sheriffs to legally “double dip” and take advantage of taxpayers.
Dear Governor Christie,
I’m sure you’re well aware that 51 sheriff’s office officials have been exposed for collecting tens of thousands of dollars in pensions while still collecting a government paycheck, or has the press has lightly coined it, “double dipping”. This comes after your greatly-heralded pension reforms of last year where retired government workers were forced to take significant decreases in pensions and benefits. As Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, who clears six figures from salary while still collecting a pension, told reporters, “Does it look bad? Yes. No question about it, it looks bad. Was it legal? Yes.”
It looks bad because it is bad; unfortunately it is legal as well. This is a flagrant abuse of power and misuse of taxpayer money. The fact that it is legal most certainly does not make it right. While thousands of New Jersey government retirees are forced to live on a fixed income, which you were greatly responsible for reducing, these sheriffs use their pensions as bonuses on top of their already sizeable salaries. Does this seem right to you, governor?
We ask you to do all you can to stop this “double dipping” and close this horrendous loophole in your pension reforms once and for all. Cutting pensions because the system is in a deficit is an understandable sacrifice. Allowing well-paid officials to take advantage of an already struggling system is, in addition to not being understandable, inexcusable. Please work with the State Assembly to correct this blatant disregard for the citizens of New Jersey in the name of all tax paying Americans who put their trust in the government.
[Your Name Here]