OINK OINK OINK OINK!

Ocean County Freeholder Jack KellyOnce in a while, a political figure slips up and gives us a proper glimpse at how politics really gets done in New Jersey. They accidentally go and divulge something dishy. That’s what Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore did earlier this year when he addressed the Ocean County Republican Committee:

“I don’t think this is any secret, that I can’t say it: I have spoken with Senator Sweeney, the president of the Senate, who has assured me that (Ocean County Freeholder) Jack Kelly’s nomination to the parole board will be heard by the Judiciary Committee and will be voted upon by the Senate and that we’ll be happy with the results of both of those,”

Just about everything that’s wrong with New Jersey politics is embedded in that one innocuous-sounding statement: 1) poor judgment + arrogance in Trenton 2) a jaw-dropping disregard for actual democracy and 3) political patronage that drives our state’s colossally high property taxes.

OINK!

Jack Kelly is a long-time GOP freeholder from Ocean County whose entire professional career was funded by NJ taxpayers. We’re talking 3 decades of salary, pension, and healthcare benefits for Kelly and his family all paid for by you and by me. From a Star Ledger editorial:


“Kelly, 64, makes $30,000 a year as a (part-time) freeholder and has been collecting a $43,886 state pension since 2004, when he took early retirement from another patronage position as an airport analyst for the South Jersey Transportation Authority — another job for which he was unqualified. The job required a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college and five years’ experience in the aviation field, neither of which Kelly had. But Gilmore, who was general counsel to the authority at the time, apparently smoothed the way for Kelly, who was making $74,662 there when he ‘retired.’”

Jack Kelly has raked in over $500,000 since he pretended to retire. More cunningly, Kelly also banked a “bonus” for opting out of SJTA’s health insurance plan because his healthcare at the time was coverer by yet another municipal gig as Eaglewood Township Committeeman.
But greedy politicians usually come back for more and Kelly now seems determined to double down. Literally. Should he manage to score this plum patronage gig, Kelly’s annual income would double from $74,000 to $143,000. Additionally, that increase would automatically trigger a lifetime of higher pension rates. Good work if you can get it.
“I’ve been blocking Jack Kelly’s Parole Board nomination since last December because he has no qualifications for the position,” Senator Raymond Lesniak told PolitickerNJ. “It was only last week that I realized it was the same Jack Kelly who put an Ocean County police veteran dying of cancer, Laurel Hester, and her partner Staci Andree through hell to the bitter end to allow Laurel to assign her pension rights to Staci. Kelly’s lack of compassion and decency disqualifies him from serving on the New Jersey Parole Board. Laurel Hester put her life on the line for two decades to protect Ocean County residents and we’re going to reward her tormenter with a $120,000 political patronage job? No way!”
But there’s another, more compelling reason Jack Kelly’s nomination should be quashed. And it’s got nothing to do with patronage.

LGBTs to Sen. Sweeney: LEAD!  

Jack Kelly is Public Enemy #1 for NJ’s LGBT community. His mean-spirited brand of retrograde bigotry was featured in an Oscar-winning documentary called Freeheld. In short, Kelly single-handedly denied survivor benefits to the lesbian partner of a dying Ocean County police detective named Laurel Hester. Despite reiterating his opposition to same-sex partnerships of any kind, Kelly cited fiscal prudence for denying Detective Hester’s dying wish. This, from a man who spent his entire career greedily suckling at the taxpayer’s teat.
Christian Fuscarino, who leads Garden State Equality, NJ’s largest LGBT organization told PolitickerNJ that “the LGBT community cannot afford to have a homophobe determining their fate in the criminal justice system. If Steve Sweeney has any respect for the justice system in New Jersey, he will speak out against this insulting nomination. We must call this out for what it is. Governor Christie nominated a homophobe to a comfy position making $100,000 where he can oppress LGBT people due to his personal biases. It’s disgusting and a slap in the face to LGBT people.”
Steve Sweeney comes from a political machine that uses taxpayer-funded patronage jobs as a weapon; a tool to reward or enforce loyalty among subordinates. But as the Senate President quickly learned with the Jack Kelly case, not all patronage hacks are created equal. Sweeney may not have been aware that Jack Kelly is persona non grata to a huge subset of Democratic primary voters, but Kelly’s appalling lack of qualifications for a 6-figure job should have disqualified him on merit along.
“It was only last week that I realized it was the same Jack Kelly who put an Ocean County police veteran dying of cancer, Laurel Hester, and her partner Staci Andree through hell to the bitter end to allow Laurel to assign her pension rights to Staci,” said Lesniak. “Kelly’s lack of compassion and decency disqualifies him from serving on the New Jersey Parole Board. Laurel Hester put her life on the line for two decades to protect Ocean County residents and we’re going to reward her tormenter with a $120,000 political patronage job? No way!”
Sweeney’s inability to read the politics of this ghastly transaction is more evidence he lacks the political instincts to rally his own party. Much less the state.

Democracy?
Never mind Steve Sweeney and Chris Christie’s unfortunate tendency to treat public sector jobs like the family store. Or Jack Kelly’s appointment to (yet) another lucrative job for which he’s wholly unqualified. Let’s take a peek at Sweeney’s politburo-esque leadership style which strongly suggests that most important decisions in Trenton are settled in advance, far from the prying eyes of the hapless chumps who pay taxes in this state. Instead, let’s just replay GOP leader George Gilmour’s money quote:
“I have spoken with Senator Sweeney, the president of the Senate, who has assured me that Kelly’s nomination to the parole board will be heard by the Judiciary Committee and will be voted upon by the Senate and that we’ll be happy with the results of both of those.”
If this is so, why noter having a committee hearing? Heck, why even bother having a committee?!
If Jack Kelly’s nomination to Parole Board passes the democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee, it would confirm voters’ darkest fears about Trenton politics: that patronage reigns, democracy is a sham, and that politicians are only in  it for themselves. And that’s one heckuva crappy civics lesson.

Jay Lassiter is a NJ political gadfly whose radical agenda includes brunch and ending capital punishment. When he’s not on Twitter, Jay is probably working to keep the government out of your womb. Or your bong.