Sheriff Bob Austino is Double Dipping

The News reports that some HIGHLY PAID Cumberland County officials are double dipping – receiving generous retirement pensions as well as working  full-time jobs that pay substantially more than the average household income for the county.

The Democrats in the county are quick to wage class warfare when it suits them. They are quick to jump on the “double-dipping” bandwagon when a Republican collecting a pension runs for office. But it turns out there are skeletons in their closet. Eight to be exact.

While budgetary struggles and poverty proliferate through Cumberland County, a number of public employees here are enjoying what some are calling “double-dipping” — accepting salary for a current job while also receiving pension payments for retirement from a previously held position.

Five employees at the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the county Sheriff and Undersheriff, are among 168 such “retirees” employed throughout the state, according to an investigative report by Mark Lagerkvist on the New Jersey Watchdog website.

We can start with our incompetent sheriff Bob Austino. Austino is a man who, as a citizen, took the law into his own hands rather than allow the local police department to do their duty. He has no business being the top law enforcement officer in this county. He made a big stink about being willing to do the job for less than the legally mandated salary.

If you went to Walmart and offered to work for less than minimum wage, Walmart would have to say, sorry, we cannot do that. It is against the law. Rather than lobby to have the law setting the minimum salary for sheriff changed, Austino chose to violate it. It is obvious that he doesn’t need the salary, after all the taxpayers are paying him a hefty $60,000 a year in pension in addition to his $75,000 salary.

Now I have mixed feelings about calling a retired person living on a pension and also working a double-dipper. We have many senior citizens that worked their entire lives, paying into their retirement or to social security. If they want to be a greeter at Walmart to help pay their ever increasing tax bills (which are increasing because self-serving politicians like Bob Austino think they have a right to retire in the top 1% on taxpayers’ backs) they have every right.

But there is a problem inherent in a system where it is commonplace for people to work and retire after a mere 20 years of service with a hefty pension, and then to go right back into the same system they just retired from. The idea of allowing retirement after 20 years is that the job is more stressful than another job. Okay, I’ll bite. If you want to make that argument, then you have no business whatsoever going BACK into that same field after you retired. Become a Walmart greeter! Oh,  but if you do that you cannot as one person bring home three to four times the median HOUSEHOLD income of the majority of Cumberland County residents. Yes – that is HOUSEHOLD INCOME. Most households have two or more people working, if they are lucky enough to have a job in the worst run county in the state. Many have to work more than one job – just to earn 1/3 of what Bob Austino is earning for mismanaging the Sheriff’s Department.

What we are faced with is not a legal issue – this sort of double-dipping is not illegal the way the laws are currently written. It is an ethical issue. A person that works and retires at the earliest possible time from a “stressful job” is at the very best a scoundrel and liar when they take another job in the same field.  It must not have been that stressful then, eh? They are opportunists, and taxpayers look the other way and allow them to continue to live large on the public dole. Austino is a really bad example – he is so incompetent that he had to hire TWO undersheriffs (and Norm Franckle is yet another double-dipper) because he was unable to do the job, unlike his predecessor, with only one.

The real issue here is that New Jersey taxpayers are being dragged over the coals to pay retirees to increase their stations in life.

A New Jersey Watchdog investigation revealed that 125 retired law enforcement officers throughout the state are collecting a total of $18.5 million a year — $8.6 million in annual retirement pay, and $9.9 million in salaries at county and state prosecutors’ offices.

The current laws need to be changed to take into account early retirements. Anybody that retires at age 40 and decides to take on another job (often with yet another pension or retirement program) should be forced to delay collecting their publicly financed pension until they really ARE retired. At the very least, they should have the moral backbone to do what is right in the eyes of the taxpayers paying their salaries, and voluntarily stop collecting their pensions and stop bankrupting the county. Cumberland County has a $TEN MILLION budget deficit, and Bob Austino is laughing all the way to the bank.

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13 Responses to Sheriff Bob Austino is Double Dipping

  1. Wuli I agree with you. If you retire as a teamster and you drive a truck full time you can loose your pension. It should be the same in law enforcement. I always said that give the men and woman a chance who want a career in law enforcement.

  2. SillySilly says:

    Those collecting a pension, i.e. a state trooper or out of state cop, are NOT working in titles covered by the same pension. If they were, they’d have to freeze the pension and pay back into it again. In fact, there is a savings involved. If you’re collecting a pension, you cannot pay into another. So the county/city/etc is SAVING money that they’d be paying into the pension for that employee (assuming the municipality actually paid what it is supposed to).

    The problem lies with those collecting a pension and then being given a created position, doing the same job, that does not have a title covered by the pension. Even then, aren’t we the public getting a well versed individual doing the job, rather than training someone new?

    As for hiring new, young people…those are the breaks. Politics and friendships are, unfortunately going to play into hiring no matter if you hire a 25 year old or a 55 year old.

    Also, we can’t stop someone collecting a federal or out of state pension from working here. Yes, this is sometimes a problem. But this is no more a problem than any other pension issues in NJ.

  3. Fairton Man says:

    Silly Silly . You are so wrong. The are paying into PEERS and will collect TWO pensions. They were also collecting lifetime health benefits while getting paid half the cost of the county plan not to take insurance they did not need and could not use. Makes you wonder who the real criminals are. They are willing to basically steal from the taxpayers.

  4. SillySilly says:

    Aren’t these positions going to be filled by someone else anyway? So what’s the problem? And I know that not all are paying into PERS. Some may be, but not all.

    I just don’t see the problem. There is no additional financial expenditure from what the employer would be paying anyone else in those positions. As long is its not a created position for political gain, why is there so much animosity about this?

  5. WuLi says:

    At least one, Norman Franckel, was hired for political reasons. AND, under the previous sheriff, there WAS NO NEED to have TWO undersheriffs. With the current incompetent sheriff, he NEEDED to hire another person that knew what he was doing. The second undersheriff is costing taxpayers unnecessary expense.

    Plus, there is something inherently wrong with people collecting a public pension, working at an obscene wage, and working on getting a second different pension all at public expense when the county has many competent people tta are in the unemployment line right now.

  6. Broke taxpayer says:

    Silly Silly seems to be informed. Can you tell us if they are still collecting to not take the government health insurance they don’t need, since they already get it?
    That is double dipping. I would note that the last sheriff was also working on a double pension.

  7. SillySilly says:

    I’m in agreement with you on the healthcare issue. But what can you do now? Perhaps eliminate the payout if you’re eligible for another state-run healthcare plan. But I’m not so sure it’s fair to eliminate the opt-out for those covered by a spouses insurance.

    I also agree that a second undersheriff clearly highlights problems within that agency. But again I say, if Austino was intent on creating those positions, he’s going to fill them with someone. The fact that it happened to be retired friends is only part of the issue. THe creation of the positions is the other part.

    I’m sorry, Wuli, I disagree about filling these positions with other people from the “unemployment line”. Some of the positions we’re talking about may be entry level, but many are not. The unemployed construction worker is not qualified to go into law enforcement or healthcare position or other technical positions.

  8. WuLi says:

    @Silly
    Thanks for continuing the dialogue. While we don’t agree on every point, it seems that there is common ground on some issues. Even addressing these issues can result in efficiency and savings.

    Austino is where I would begin.He ran on a platform that anything over $75K a year is “greedy”. Sure, Lou Magazzu put those words in his mouth, but since he was not man enough to make a stand, I am going to hold him to it. He should willingly give up that pension until he really retires.

    The public should not be forced to pay for health benefits for an employee that already has them – that should be a benefit, but not something they can cash in to increase their take home pay.

    Public pensions should kick in at the same time as social security, not at age 42.

    Only the MOST QUALIFIED people should be allowed to be hired for these at-will positions in county government. Cronysim, when proved, should be grounds for immediate legal action.

  9. SillySilly says:

    I’m glad we agree on the fact that only the most qualified should be hired into these positions. I’m not sure what the answer is with duplicitous healthcare. If the employee is not motivated, financially, to opt-out of coverage, they may just keep the coverage; thus costing more.

    That Austino platform ($75K) was all Lou. Shame on the sheriff for going along with it. But, unfortunately, the people of our county continue to elect him and others like him. I’m sure no educated MW reader would do such a thing!

  10. WuLi says:

    The real issue is that things have to change from the top. I agree with the premise that salaries of over $100,000 for county positions are egregious. County salaries should be set on a baseline in accordance with that county’s median income. But the way to fix this is to have NJ State Law changed, not to make it a political kickball.

    Austino did many unethical things at Lou’s bidding, including staging a press conference and lying to the public.Any person that lacks a backbone as much as that loser has no business in law enforcement. We need people of integrity in the highest LE post in the county, not a person willing to lie to further their political career.

    But you are correct, that was all a part of Magazzu’s machinations. Without his puppet master pulling his strings, perhaps Austino might act with integrity once in a while here on out. We are stuck with this guy for three years, so one can only hope.

    The state needs to reform how healthcare is handled across the board – providing it as a perk when an employee does not have alternate coverage, and forcing the employee to pay %100 of the price if they do have other coverage but opt to keep the county coverage besides.

    Pension terms need to reflect real life. pensions should not be allowed to be collected until RETIREMENT age as decided by SSI. The arguments made for early retirement in law enforcement are bogus – if the job is that stressful then the retired person would NOT be taking yet another job in the same field.

    Of course it is politicians that write the laws, so we can expect any reform such as the anti-double-dipping reform to be filled with exceptions and loopholes. The whole point of politics is to pretend you are doing something while maintaining the status quo.

  11. BobFlmy says:

    The News story skipped Doug Rainear with his two taxpayer pensions while getting $75,000.00 as surrogate. JackHummel also had the story leave out Art Marchand with his huge enhanced pension while being appointed to a judgeship and collecting another $90,000.00

  12. Calhoun says:

    I have been critical of the Cumberland News and Hummel, but I believe BobFlmy is off the mark. The Cumberland News article — an outgrowth of another piece of investigative reporting — stated that its focus was on law enforcement only. And indeed LE (and firefighters) are areas where it is not uncommon for people to collect a pension while also having a full time job. This is so because these areas require less time in the system before one can retire with full benefits.

    If we want to keep a scorecard of who is on the county payroll while also collecting a pension, we must also add the following appointees and the pensions they currently collect, according to state documents: James R Matlock: $54,759.24; Robert M. Balicki: $50,456.16; Dale L. Finch: $29,992.32.

  13. lurker454 says:

    To be fair, remember the former sheriff Mike Barruzza also collected his Vineland pension while he held office. Keep in mind that all of these people did their time as per state law; usually 25 years or more on the job. While I’m no fan of Bob Austino it’s important to point this out.

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