Local watchdog group calls out city officials for “Double Dipping”

In an OPRA request filed by CivicJC, the organization found city officials and aides taking salaries from more than one source of income

The local government watchdog group CivicJC has called out city officials for holding more than one job in Jersey City or for Hudson County, known as “double dipping,” taking aim at the administration of Mayor Steven Fulop.

Esther Wintner, the president of CivicJC and the author of a statement about the practice, criticized “the hated practice of leeching off the government teat [that] helped catapult Fulop to local stardom and ultimately, mayor” and criticized the mayor for failing to end the practice.

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A Fulop administration spokesperson insisted the mayor believes an employee’s job with the city comes first, but pointed out that court rulings restrict the mayor from preventing city personnel from having additional sources of income provided they are disclosed as the city’s charter requires.

According to CivicJC, two members of Mayor Fulop’s administration, one council member and five council staff members collected annual salaries from both Jersey City and Hudson County.

Ward A Councilwoman Denise Riley, according to CivicJC, “receives a salary of $85,000 from Jersey City and also appears on the county payroll as a ‘Confidential Assistant’ with the county register at a salary of $62,000 for a total of $147,000.”

Wintner said CivicJC reached out to the county to provide a job description for “confidential assistant.” She said the county responded, ”New Jersey Civil Services does not have job descriptions for the titles ‘confidential assistant’ or ‘confidential aide.’”

John Metro, who serves as the city’s Business Administrator, receives a city salary of $190,000 while maintaining a second income of $8,783 as secretary to the insurance fund and $7,450 as an aide to the Board of Commissioners, according to CivicJC.

The group said mayoral aide and chief of staff John Minella, who receives a salary of $175,000, also receives two additional salaries, $22,914 as a member of the Board of Elections, and $6,700 as an aide to the county commissioners.

A city spokesperson said in an email to The Hudson Reporter, “The mayor still believes that working for the city should be the primary job for everyone employed there, but that isn’t always possible, and the mayor does not control that legally. The courts ruled that a city couldn’t restrict people from having different sources of income as long as it is legal and disclosed under the current Faulkner Act system of government.”

Councilman Daniel Rivera’s aide appeared on two payrolls with salaries of $80,000 from the county and $30,000 from Jersey City. CivicJC also pointed out that Rivera works for the county school system.

Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey’s aide also appeared on both the county and the city payrolls. Prinz-Arey has also listed her spouse on her financial disclosure as receiving income from Hudson County, however he did not appear on the county payroll document provided in the OPRA request, according to CivicJC. 

In an interview with the Jersey City Times the councilwoman said that her aide “does some part-time work with one of the commissioners. “He is paid an annual salary of about $1,500.”

She added that her husband does temporary work for the Hudson County Board of Elections. “Technically, he is not a county employee but is paid by the county for temp work. That is why it was listed on my financial disclosure statement.”

According to CivicJC, aides to certain City Council members were also earning salaries from both the city and county. Brittani Bunney, an aide to Ward D Councilwoman Yusef Saleh, is also listed in the letter as receiving a county salary as an analyst trainee of $76,875 while receiving a city salary of $35,000.

Councilperson Amy DeGise currently employs two aides that both hold positions with the county with salaries of $117,000 and $66,000. They each receive a salary of $22,500 from Jersey City with added salaries of $139,500 and $88,500, according to CivicJC.

The Hudson Reporter reached out via email to council members cited in the letter for comment but none responded.

“Steven Fulop was elected as a reformer, a “Man With a Plan” that would break from political patronage and put an end to old time politics,” read the CivicJC statement. “CivicJC believes the public deserves to hear from Mayor Fulop as to why he would betray them on his promise by continuing an ugly tradition of Hudson County politics, and to stand by the principles he peddled.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Jordan Coll can be reached at jcoll@hudsonreporter.com.

 

Jordan Coll, Staff Writer
Jordan Coll, Staff Writer
Jordan Coll, is a journalist who currently lives in Jersey City. He graduated with a degree in journalism at Florida International University and is pursuing his masters at Columbia University School of Journalism.
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