TRENTON – The high salaries and lucrative perks of some improvement authority officials have drawn the attention of a state lawmaker.
Sen. Sam Thompson, (R-12), Middlesex said he will introduce a bill Monday to cap salaries of workers at local or county utility, sewage and improvement authorities.
He said in a release that this is spurred in part by reports concerning the Middlesex County Improvement Authority Executive Director Richard Pucci’s $210,000 salary plus perks including five weeks of vacation time and health benefits.
The MCIA has a pending application before the Local Finance Board, which meets on Wednesday, for $19 million in bonding for capital equipment and other uses.
Pucci and Finance Board Chairman Thomas Neff got into a heated discussion in July when the board deferred action on the MCIA request.
Among other things, Neff raised questions at the time about a $55,000 authority fee in the application. “It seems to me that not a tight ship is being run at the authority,’’ Neff said.
Pucci strongly defended his record before the board, reminding Neff that he has 23 years in public service, and that there is no reason a simple phone call couldn’t have been placed ahead of that day’s hearing to resolve the questions.
But Thompson indicated today in announcing his plans for the legislation that the MCIA situation is just one example of a widespread concern.
“This bill is to put a muzzle and leash on piggish public employees who think they can fill their gaping maws with the people’s money, because no one knows who they are or what they do,” Thompson said in a release. “News flash to them: more and more people are starting to realize that you make excessive incomes and are afforded outlandish perks.”
Thompson’s legislation would cap the salaries of authority employees at the maximum salary for state Cabinet officers, which is $141,000. The bill also would prohibit employees from receiving a car, an allowance toward the purchase or lease of a car, and an expense account. It would ban employees from receiving a public payment in lieu of health insurance if that employee receives health insurance and it would prevent annual sick day payouts.
“We must immediately pass this legislation to end the type of indefensible government greed that makes New Jersey one of the most frustrating places to be a taxpayer, and one of the most expensive places to raise a family and create jobs,” Thompson said.
In recent months, the Finance Board has scrutinized salaries of other authority officials as well, including the head of the Union County Improvement Authority, Charlotte DeFilippo, who has since announced she will step down.
Both Pucci and DeFilippo are Democrats, and DeFilippo raised the issue of political motivations behind the scrutiny, but Neff has stated consistently that the Finance Board has raised questions about applications that came from Republicans as well.