TRENTON – Monmouth County has illegally given county commissioners and the sheriff raises, according to an investigation by the New Jersey Office of State Comptrollers published Thursday.
In a letter to Monmouth County, Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh wrote that the Board of County Commissioners for both the commissioners themselves and for a series of increases for Sheriff Shaun Golden of Monmouth County, who saw “the legal requirements amending who did not meet salaries “. his raise of $ 42,210 over five years.
“By not following the public process, the Monmouth County Board of Commissioners has denied voters the opportunity to participate in county government in the manner required by law,” said a statement from the auditors announcing the investigation.
“Bypassing the public process undermines transparency and public trust in local government.”
You can read the full report at the end of this story.
The investigation confirms Asbury Park Press reporting, beginning April 2020, which first revealed the secret frenzy.
“Leader in Transparency”
In response to a request for comment on the investigation, a Monmouth County spokeswoman referred the press to Commissioner Director Tom Arnone’s statement at their January 6 organizational meeting after Commissioners approved salaries for constitutional officials as well as district officers. The public hearing on the salaries of the commissioners will take place on January 27th.
What happened at the meeting:Monmouth County’s commissioners will set their own salaries, this time through a public vote
However, Arnone failed to take note of the then pending auditor’s report on the illegal salary increases when he and his commissioners approved the resolutions last week. Instead, Arnone said the board did so because Monmouth County was “a leader in transparency” and urged state lawmakers to review “mandates” on the books since the 1970s.
Golden’s spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office has not responded to press requests for comment.
Walsh, in the letter to Monmouth County, wrote that New Jersey law requires commissioners to pass a resolution alerting the public to their intention to raise their own salaries; Announce the date, time and place of a public hearing on the change in salary; make a public announcement in an authorized newspaper at least 10 days prior to the hearing; hold a public hearing and a majority of the committee votes in favor of the decision.
The state law also gives voters the opportunity to vote on the salary increases in parliamentary elections. The raise would go to a vote if a group petitioned a petition with signatures of at least 15% of the total county votes cast in the last General Assembly election to contest the raise within 20 days of the salary change being passed.
Walsh’s letter states that correct procedures were followed when the county board, then known as the Freeholder, set its annual salary at $ 30,000 each in 2002 and again when the board set its salaries at $ 27,000 each due to the 2009 Great Recession US dollar decreased.
But the district officials failed to abide by the law of the state when they increased their salary from $ 27,000 to $ 30,000 in 2020, Walsh wrote in his letter.
However, the press investigation in 2021 found that commissioners increased their salaries up to $ 35,769 a year in January 2020 before lowering the annual salary to $ 30,000 after a press reporter put them on an above-average commissioner salary allocation questioned in the household.
The auditor’s office declined to comment on the difference between the $ 30,000 salary quoted in its report and public records the press found showing the commissioners made an even larger amount .
The auditor’s letter states that Monmouth County has recognized that it neither passed a resolution increasing Golden’s salary, nor ever passed a resolution setting a sheriff’s salary as required by state law since 1971 .
Golden is also the chairman of the Monmouth County Republican Party, which dominates county politics. As chairman, Golden also has significant power over who can be elected Republican in the county, and has used that power to target GOP officials who challenged him, such as the ousting of Rep. Serena DiMaso, R- Monmouth, from the coveted party line slot in the 2021 area code.
Former Republican gubernatorial candidate:Kim Guadagno says goodbye to GOP. Continuing argument with Shaun Golden quoted
The state investigation found the following annual salary increases for Golden:
- Salary for 2016 at $ 136,133
- Salary in 2017 at $ 140,390
- Salary for 2018 at $ 143,900
- Salary for 2019 at $ 169,157
- Salary for 2020 at $ 173,693
- 2021 salary at $ 178,343
Monmouth charges:Leaders were previously told that any increases would require a public vote, ex-colleagues say
Walsh wrote that his office opened the investigation after receiving a series of complaints about the raise.
Walsh’s letter recommended that the county “strictly adhere to the processes” in New Jersey law regarding the setting of the salaries of commissioners and sheriffs. The Auditor’s Office confirmed that it is being monitored to ensure Monmouth County is complying with the Auditor’s recommendation.
It is not clear whether the Commissioners and Golden will have to repay their salaries that have not been properly approved.
Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said the results on Monmouth County’s secret wage increases could mean the state should scrutinize civil servants’ pay increases in a manner similar to the way the state scrutinizes any municipal budget.
Rasmussen, a Monmouth County resident, said his neighbors had expressed doubts that something was going to happen to the commissioners and they would only get a chance to correct themselves with the new salary decision.
“It underscores that wage increases is a serious power that should never be taken lightly,” he said. “It is so serious that the latest amendment to the United States Constitution will restrict it. The State Department of Community Affairs has a review process for every municipal budget; perhaps it is time for officials to review each vote to increase their own salaries. also.”
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Susanne Cervenka works on Monmouth County government and property tax issues and has won several state and regional awards for her work. She has been in charge of local government for 15 years, with stops in Ohio and Florida before arriving in New Jersey in 2013. Contact her at @scervenka; 732-643-4229; [email protected]