Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Assemblyman Green endorses opposition to Authority 'golden parachutes'

In a post to his blog Wednesday (see here) Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green endorses opposition to a Port Authority 'golden parachute' being spearheaded by a Bergen County assemblywoman. This is of interest to Plainfield ratepayers as the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) is still in the throes of deciding how to handle a settlement offer made by the attorney for former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin.

At issue is a $156,000 severance payout for the Port Authority attorney evidently being bumped by Gov. Christie so that former Attorney General Paula Dow can have a temporary perch pending her confirmation to a judgeship.

The Port Authority payout story was first broken by the Bergen Record on Tuesday afternoon (see here) with a followup story in today's Ledger (see here). The settlement gives the former PA attorney, whose annual salary was $215,000, a cash settlement of $156,000 plus six months continuation of his health benefits.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle of Englewood immediately pounced on the 'golden parachute' in the press release posted to Assemblyman Green's blog.

Coincidentally, Gov. Christie was in the news for visiting a former Middlesex County Democratic freeholder in his home Wednesday in his continuing campaign to reduce or eliminate accrued sick-pay and vacation time payouts upon severance or retirement (see story here).

Readers may want to refresh their memories concerning the former PMUA executives' demands by reading my original post outlining the rumored terms of a settlement (see here) and the followup post after the PMUA Commissioners' meeting in which the public was able to raise questions about the proposed settlement (see here).

The gist of the rumored settlement is --
  • Watson is willing to settle for $475,000 (instead of the $760,000 initially demanded)
  • Ervin would settle for $300,000 (instead of the $451,000 initially demanded)
  • Each would accept partial payment over a period of two or three years
This does not include other gimmes, including change of separation dates from June 30 to December 31, 'tax-favorable' structuring of the separation payment(s), and benefits issues.

Note the contrast between what former Executive Director Watson is said to want ($760,000 knocked down to $475,000) and the hapless Port Authority attorney whose salary was $215,000 (compared to Watson's $143,000), and who is only walking away with $156,000 -- TOTAL (don't forget Watson already received a share of an initial $275,000 payment).

It's rumored the PMUA Commissioners may retreat to an executive session after next Tuesday's Rate Hearing and regular Board Meeting to try and come to a decision on whether to let the arbitration proceeding run its course or to take the settlement offer, or to (possibly) make a counter-offer. Meeting details are at end of this post.

Plainfield resident Kimberley Beverley has a letter in today's Courier (see here), reviewing the PMUA severance payment situation, enlarging on issues with Watson and Ervin and suggesting the newest appointments to the Commissioners (Dunn and Sanders) are lobbying for a quick settlement on Watson's and Ervin's terms.

The writer suggests the best way forward is to stay the course of arbitration, concluding '...Plainfield citizens deserve better than to be taken, yet again'.

As for me, while it is well known Assemblyman Green and I do not always see things the same way, I am with him 100% in opposing 'golden parachutes' on the public's dime.

NOTE ON VANIERI HUTTLE:  The Assemblywoman joined forces this past September with a New York State Senator to outline reforms for accountability and transparency for the Port Authority (see her release here; Sen. Lanza's here). Vanieri Huttle may also be remembered for calling Gov. Christie out on his use of a state helicopter to attend his son's baseball game -- for which Christie offered payback by calling her 'a jerk'.

Board of Commissioners Meeting

Tuesday | January 10
Rate Hearing: 6:00 PM
Followed by a Regular Board Meeting

PMUA Headquarters
127 Roosevelt Avenue

(corner East 2nd Street)
Parking in agency lot or on street

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

At the last PMUA meeting the question was asked: "What are the claims of Messrs. Watson and Ervin that support a 1.2 million dollar claim? The PMUA refused to answer. Why?
It is my opinion that the theory of a claim was initiated between a cabal consisting of the retiring Executives and some, if not all, of the Commissioners prior to the submission of the resignations. And, if not prior, with the approbation of some or all of the Commissioners shortly after the submission. Why else would the Commissioners be considering a settlement rather than letting the Arbitration run its course? In the alternative consider the following.If the Arbitration panel rules in favor of the claimants, then it is a finding that demonstrates that the Commissioners permitted some
injustice to occur to these men during their employment. How did this injustice occur? How did the malignancy spread so far as to warrant a 6 or perhaps 7 figure award. Was proper notification given to the Commissioners when the offense was occurring, thereby giving the Commissioners an opportunity to remedy the alleged grievance? In the absence of proper notification the claim is much diminished. If the notification was timely and proper then the Commissioners are culpable of having permitted its continuation resulting in resignation and litigation.

How did we get here. We have 7 suspect people with the authority to award a 6 or 7 figure settlement using public funds without even identifying the circumstances surrounding the event. The PMUA continues out of control. The City Council is helpless and encourages the perpetuation of the PMUA's conduct by recently appointing 2 more of the "Old Guard" as Commissioners. Not only is the rate paying citizenry betrayed, but the hard working rank and file more so. Men who get up in the dark every working day of the year, and in brutal weather perform their jobs while their leadership cavorts in distant places eating frog's legs, drinking Glenlivet, and awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars to a handful of the privileged.

Bill Kruse

Anonymous said...

Dan You are the worst thing that eve happen to plainfield, At least i can read Doc's, Maria, and Bernice blog. You are the dark cloud over the beautyful city of Plainfield.

Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

And the recycling wasn't collected Wednesday, second week in a row. I phoned Wednesday afternoon and was assured the men were still working and would finish the job that day. Nope. Nor today. Means everything goes in the trash on Friday, I guess.

Anonymous said...

When the PMUA stated they hired e-cons they meant to say that the commissioners were corrupt. They are the thugs. The people that work on the trucks and in the offices are outstanding. It's the management and board that could use some jail time. They are only in it for themselves and their cronies.

Anonymous said...

Pat Turner, the PMUA CFO said that the $275,000 partial payment to the retiring Executives will not effect the rates. At first blush this appeared to be an irrational comment. However, perhaps he is correct, and the question should have been will the award effect services?

Bill Kruse