Gloucester County Democratic Chairman Michael Angelini, the target of a scathing report by the state Inspector General alleging his participation in a self-enriching pension padding scheme, is being told by Republicans that he should resign.
Inspector General Mary Jane Cooper has referred the results of her Angelini probe to the state Attorney General's office for possible criminal prosecution.
Bill Fey, the county GOP chairman, says allegations that Angelini received credit in the state pension system for legal work performed by associates at his law firm, resulted in increased property taxes in Gloucester County.
"Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," said Fey. "Make no mistake, Chairman Angelini's pension-padding scheme is a direct result of the monopoly on our county government by the South Jersey Democrat Machine. The only surefire way to end this kind of unethical behavior is to elect Republican, taxpayer-watchdogs to the Freeholder Board – and that is exactly what we intend to do."
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford), an Angelini ally who is also the Gloucester County Freeholder Director, has questioned the timing and motivation of a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
Fey hinted that he intends to make Angelini an issue in the next election when two Democratic Freeholders are up for re-election. Some of Angelini's legal work came from the county government.
"What does it say about the Gloucester County Democratic Party if Chairman Angelini doesn't step aside or isn't forced out from within?" asked Fey. "To me, it means that as a party they simply don't care about unethical behavior from their leadership. Even worse, it shows disrespect for county taxpayers who are footing the bill for Chairman Angelini's decades-long abuse of the pension system."
Cooper said earlier this week that her office collected evidence that Angelini assigned associates from his law firm to perform legal work "for which he was paid and gained pension credits," and found that government entities paid legal fees to his firm through their payroll so that the veteran Democratic party leader could earn pension credits.
"The Pension benefits associated with his enrollment are worth hundreds of thousands of state dollars," Cooper said.
Since 1981, Angelini has served as the Greenwich Township and Monroe Township public defender, the Clayton and Paulsboro municipal prosecutor, the Assistant Gloucester County Counsel, the solicitor for Oaklyn and Mantua, West Deptford and Paulsboro, the counsel the Gloucester County Board of Social Services, the Counsel to the South Jersey Transportation Authority, and as the lawyer for the South Jersey Port Corporation and Gloucester County Improvement Authority.
According to pension records cited in the report, Angelini was simultaneously retained by as many as seven government entities at once, with a total "salary" of $213,000.
At the beginning of 2008, when a new law took effect clarifying that those who provide work to public entities under a professional services were ineligible for the pension system took effect, Angelini attempted to cash in his pension, by then estimated at over $100,000 per year, but the request was held pending a review.
Angelini told the OIG that in his view, the statute did not merely clarify the law, but actually changed it.
"Notwithstanding what the new law may have meant to his past positions, it was clear to Angelini that going forward, he was ineligible for pension credits for the professional services he as providing to government entities," reads the report. "At that point, he decided that it made sense for him to apply for retirement benefits and he did."
The OIG report says that Angelini got towns to put him on the payroll by using "novel and contrived arrangements, often proposed by him."
"It is reasonable to conclude that these payment structures were utilized to provide Angelini unwarranted pension benefits," reads the report.
Angelini did not bother to show up to required meetings for several of the public positions he held, often handing the work off to other employees in his firm, Angelini, Viniar & Freedman, despite being paid a salary.
For instance, Angelini told investigators that he took the role of municipal prosecutor for Clayton (population 7,000) because he liked being a prosecutor. But he seldom showed up for court proceedings there, usually delegating them to a subordinate at his law firm. Records kept by the borough between 1999 and 2003 show him present at just two of 114 court proceedings. Members of his law firm showed up for the majority of those, but not always. As of 2003 — his last year as the Clayton municipal prosecutor — the borough paid him a salary of $7,964.