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NJ Turnpike Squandered $50M In 3 Years

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

New Jersey toll-road managers to slash employee perks

By Paul Nussbaum
Posted on Tue, Oct. 19, 2010

New Jersey toll-road managers said they would eliminate perks, bonuses, payouts, and free employee E-ZPass trips after an audit released Tuesday found the New Jersey Turnpike Authority had wasted about $50 million since 2007…

Which is exactly what crooks always say when they are caught red-handed. They are always willing to give the money back and call it even.

The audit of the Turnpike Authority said the agency squandered tens of millions of dollars on bonuses, sick-leave and vacation payouts, free rides for employees, a poorly managed health-care plan, and overpayments to outside lawyers.

"While tolls are going up, the Turnpike Authority is overpaying its employees, overpaying its management, overpaying for its health plan, and overpaying for legal services," A. Matthew Boxer, the independent state comptroller, said in a statement.

Tolls increased on the roads in 2008 and are scheduled to go up again in 2012.

The president of the toll collectors union said Boxer had unfairly maligned workers, whose benefits were negotiated.

"For them to say we’re overpaid and not entitled to a middle-class life is just wrong," said Fran Ehret, president of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 194. "We kind of take umbrage at that."

"We collect the tolls, we plow the snow, we fix all the electronics, and all we’re looking for is a middle-class life," Ehret said.

She said the union, one of 10 that represents toll-road workers, would fight any effort to take away workers’ benefits.

Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, who serves as chairman of the Turnpike Authority, said the agency would take "critical and long-overdue steps to end waste at the turnpike authority."

The moves will include elimination of:

Free commutes for employees.

An account that funded employee bowling leagues and scholarships.

Annual payouts for managers’ unused vacation and sick time.

"Longevity bonuses" for nonunion employees.

Sick-leave, vacation, longevity, birthday, holiday, snow-removal, and other bonuses for 2,700 union employees as current labor contracts expire in 2011.

The Turnpike Authority, which has 10 in-house attorneys, will rein in spending for outside lawyers, which cost the agency $7 million last year.

The agency said it also would review its salary structure, "with the goal of bringing Turnpike Authority compensation into line" with other government salaries.

Gosh, no wonder the unions are outraged. They are just trying to live a "middle class" lifestyle.

The executive director of the authority, Ronnie Hakim, collected $181,035 last year, more than Gov. Christie’s $175,000 annual salary. Four other top managers earned more than the $141,000 salary earned by Christie’s cabinet chiefs…

The audit of the Turnpike Authority released Tuesday said about $30 million in bonuses was paid to employees and managers in 2008 and 2009 without consideration of performance.

About $3.8 million was paid to employees for unused sick days and vacation days in the same period.

Free E-ZPass transponders for employees of the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway cost the agency about $430,000 a year in lost tolls, said auditors.

And the agency overspent by $12.8 million for health-care benefits by using a private carrier instead of a state-run program from 2007 to 2010, the audit said.

The audit also found public toll dollars were used to establish an "employee relations account" to pay for such things as an employee bowling league ($12,000) and scholarships for employees’ children ($89,000), and to cover costs for an event none of the employees attended ($10,000).

The authority overpaid $224,168 for legal fees, the audit said. About $163,000 of the overbillings came from one law firm, DeCotis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Wisler, headquartered in Teaneck

Another report from the New Jersey NBC affiliate NBC40 noted:

[T]he audit details how a Turnpike Authority property inspector who retired in 2008 with a base salary of $73,469 actually received $321,985 that year when all payouts and bonuses are included

Hey, he was just "looking for a middle-class life."

In truth, New Jersey Turnpike workers have long since been the epitome of ‘patronage jobs.’ They represent in miniature what the Democrat Party would like to do on a nationwide scale.

And, indeed it is what the Democrats are doing, one step at at time, under Mr. Obama.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “NJ Turnpike Squandered $50M In 3 Years”

  1. heykev says:

    “In truth, New Jersey Turnpike workers have long since been the epitome of ‘patronage jobs.’ They represent in miniature what the Democrat Party would like to do on a nationwide scale.”

    Sounds like it could have been written about the Illinois Tollway Authority. We have similar problems with our own toll-road people. So this problem probably is nationwide after all.

  2. proreason says:

    How many Harvard degrees does it take to become a full-fledged toll booth operator?

    I can see the curriculum in my mind:
    Year 1: History of tolls, Change counting, Wrist flipping
    Year 2: Misdirections 101, How to speak unintelligably, Toll Both maintenance.
    Year 3: Slug identification, The Wave-through, Understanding your benefits 301.
    Year 4: Finding your Booth, Toll Taker dress for success, Advanced Change counting

    Graduate work: Toll booth electronics – know the right buttons, Fighting the Boredom, Efficient Space Heaters, Toll booth safety

    And what could possibly keep 10 in-house attorneys busy? Do toll miscreants really require a hierarchy of attorneys to run down? Couldn’t Dog the Bounty Hunter handle the whole thing himself on weekends?

    Or perhaps carpel tunnel syndrome is a major problem for toll takers? That wrist flip has got to be dangerous.

  3. Chase says:

    More evidence of the deceitful messages of the Revs Jackson/Sharpton and associated clowns, and massive failure of our public educational system (and absentee parenting) that has students leaving school and who believe that thereafter with investment of not $0.01 or sacrifice of one WWF per pay-for-view event of their time in their own education and training that they can achieve middle-class status.

    No higher education, and no entreprenurial risk (besides soiling those new Air Jordans in hopping the curb at the union employment shop) or ambition = working class.

    Unless one wins the lottery. Then chances are within 3 years, the same will be seeking welfare.


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