Black hole: Severance packages and hidden perks

Twenty months ago The Daily Record's Bob Ingle gave the SCI an "A+" for its report titled "Taxpayers Beware" which detailed how "hidden perks greatly inflated the value of school superintendents' compensation" (The Daily Record, 10/16/06).

Sound familiar? The SCI devoted 165 pages to the taxpayer abuses — a key section focused exclusively on superintendents' "severance package/buyouts". It exposed seven districts where departing supers had pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars — including some in the poorest districts in the state.

So why did the SCI report and the ongoing sweetheart-deals-at-taxpayers-expense all but disappear from the headlines until recently?

Less than a dozen articles ran statewide focusing on severance abuses after the SCI published its warnings. Not until a payout topped $700,000 did the issue make its way back onto the front pages. Since that disclosure, more than 100 articles and editorials have been inked detailing other Fortune 500-like "golden parachute" deals, the governor's oh-so-late investigation into the practice and the legislature's after-the-fact severance caps.

Even much of the recent coverage — including the New York Times' Sunday article — has failed to nail the Department of Education for its own pick-and-choose oversight policy.

According to the New York Times' article, Commissioner Davy testified that the Keansburg severance deal was "an absolutely outrageous, excessive, ridiculous package to pay anyone."

For most of us, it's obvious why the Keansburg firestorm falls into the "what isn't acceptable" category — her words. So please ask the Commissioner what was so "acceptable" about the $200,000+ deals in Wayne (The Record, 6/15/07) and Paramus (The Record, 8/29/07), the $135,000 package in Newark (Star Ledger, 10/20/07), or the latest $600,000 pocketbook raiding retirement deal in Hoboken (Star Ledger, 6/11/07) under her watch?

In Ingle's original critique, he gave the then Acting Commissioner Lucille Davy's and her "education minions" an "F" for a lack of expediency and transparency in publishing base salaries – minus the perks – for school administrators.

I wonder what grade he would give himself and his fellow reporters for letting this taxpayer travesty fall into the Black Hole? Black hole: Severance packages and hidden perks