Why Keep Quiet on Pay Change?

Editorial: Why Keep Quiet on Pay Change?
Source: The News of Cumberland County / December 01, 2010

This week’s revelation that last week’s freeholder meeting was even more interesting than originally believed is further proof that government works best when more than one political party is represented.

At that Wednesday session, in which the veterans chapel seemed to be the big issue, another issue played out after the reporters departed and the board went into executive session. They came out of that session and voted on restoring Surrogate Doug Rainear’s full salary.

Rainear pledged to take a reduced salary when running for the office in 2008, but went back on that pledge last week for unspecified personal reasons.

How did we learn this news? From a press release sent out by the county Republican organization. The current board makeup is 6-1 Democrat. Should it really be the minority party’s chairman who shares this news? Given that Rainear’s pledge was a cornerstone of the Democratic Party’s campaign in 2008, shouldn’t such a big change of course have warranted some sort of formal announcement?

The county has an interim public relations official who sends out regular releases on a variety of topics. We received one Tuesday about Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu being honored for his work to make New Jersey Motorsports Park a reality. That’s great, but if the county has time to promote this kind of news, it has an obligation to share the less-cheerful stuff, too.

The public deserves to know that this very well-publicized salary pledge has fallen by the wayside. Since the county has a public information officer, this seems like an appropriate use of his time. That’s what being open with the public is all about, right?

We are forced to ask the obvious: Would this issue have remained under the radar if the person making the request for their full salary was a member of the minority party?

What’s really puzzling about this entire scenario is why some effort wasn’t made by Democrats to at least get ahead of the issue. Forget about the whole concept of being open with your constituents for a moment — think about this the way a politician would. You know this news will eventually make its way to the public. Shouldn’t you at least get out there in front of it and spin it in the best possible light? Perhaps the party in power is simply counting on public apathy.

Thankfully, communication with the public was restored Wednesday afternoon, when Magazzu called a press conference to ask state Legislators to give control over constitutional officer salaries back to the county. As we have said before, the current salaries are too high and the mechanism for setting them must be changed. Those salaries are currently tied to the pay for state Superior Court judges. That arrangement doesn’t make sense.

Magazzu, who is also chairman of the county Democrats, had nothing to say Wednesday about last week’s meeting and Rainear’s change of plans regarding his salary.

All of this may be history now, but the communication issue isn’t. The county has the system in place to be up front with the public. Please use it — even when the news isn’t so good.



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