The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Should Prosecutor look into $107,000 PMUA severance settlement?


Detail from signature page of separation agreement.

At Tuesday's regular monthly meeting of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority (PMUA) Commissioners
, audience members were prepared to ask questions about the status of the severance payment dispute with former executives Eric Watson and David Ervin.

What they were not prepared for was Resolution 9-2012.

When the section of the agenda for her report was reached, PMUA Counsel Leslie London explained to the Commissioners that she had prepared a resolution (9-2012) to 'memorialize' and 'ratify' two separation settlements that had 'recently come to her attention'.

These were the 2005 settlement
with former Field Operations Director John Johnson for $107,000 (coincidentally part of my post on PMUA settlements yesterday -- see the agreement here and at end of this post; the file is courtesy of Philip Charles of DumpPMUA -- see their website here) and a 2011 settlement for five weeks pay with a recently separated employee.

Questions immediately began to come from Commissioners, since several said they did not recall approving any agreement about Mr. Johnson's separation.

When asked for more details, Ms. London said that while she had prepared the document at the request of Mr. Watson, she had never had any further part in the matter, had not witnessed it, nor seen a copy of the executed agreement and did not know how it came to be paid out.

The agreement itself provides that Mr. Johnson was to receive $50,000 upon execution of the agreement (November 15, 2005) and $57,000 in eight monthly payments commencing January 1, 2006 and ending August 1, 2006.

The signatory page contains the (undated) signature of Executive Director Eric Watson and the signature of John Johnson, dated November 15, 2005.

Interestingly, the final page is in two parts for a Notary Public to attest that the parties had appeared personally before the Notary and under oath swore that they had read and executed the agreement voluntarily.

Mr. Watson's half of the document is unsigned and unattested by the Notary. Mr. Johnson's half is completed and notarized by Dollie Hamlin, an employee of the PMUA who is also a Notary Public.

The entire document, including the Notary's attestations, appears to have been prepared as a single word-processing file from the document identification number at the bottom of each page: '71015-099 289515.1'.

Whatever the intent and/or knowledge of Ms. London in preparing the document or Ms. Hamlin in taking Mr. Johnson's sworn oath, the issue that comes to my mind is HOW PAYMENT WAS CAUSED TO BE MADE AND BY WHOM, EVIDENTLY WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT OF THE GOVERNING BODY, THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS.

And that, I suggest is reason enough for the Union County Prosecutor to want to look into the matter.


PMUA Settlement: Johnson


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Carol Browkav was the Chairman at the time of this settlement and Bill Reid was a commissioner at the time. STOP wasting the Prosecutor Time with small stuff like this. There are documents to prove that the commssioner board was aware. Do your job do a OPRA request.

Dan said...

@ 8:48 AM -- Ms. London is very capable and does her homework. If she felt the settlement needed to be memorialized, it suggests to me she couldn't find a reso.

If the Commissisoners properly approved of the settlement, I am sure it will come to light soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Just another fine example of corruption under Eric Watson

Anonymous said...

Ms. london is an opportunist who makes a lot of money and will go where ever the wind blows and for whom ever is in charge at the time. You probably will not post this but as i stated before the documents are there to prove it. She is an attorney and she gets paid by the PMUA we all know attorney's do what they are told to do. Look at the Attonrney for the WBLS report whom was hired by the Mayor. A perfect example. Doing exactly what he is paid to do to NOTHING

Bill Kruse said...

NOTABLY ABSENT FROM THE "SETTLEMENT" DOCUMENT IS ANY IDENTIFICATION OF THE UNDERLYING CLAIM.IN FACT, THERE IS A 'CONFIDENTIALITY' CLAUSE WHICH PROSCRIBES THE PARTIES FROM REVEALING THE BASIS OF THE CLAIM. OR DISCUSSING ANY ASPECTS OF PROCEEDINGS THAT LEAD TO THE SETTLEMENT. IF THIS DOCUMENT IS TAKEN AT FACE VALUE THE PUBLIC WILL NEVER KNOW WHY MR.JOHNSON> WHO WAS EMPLOYED LESS THAN A YEAR RECEIVED $107,000 good-bye BONUS>

CONSIDER WHAT IS HAPPENING; THE PMUA HAS THE ABILITY TO SETTLE CLAIMS IN 6 FIGURE AMOUNTS, AND CURRENTLY IN A POTENTIAL 7 FIGURE AMOUNT, WITHOUT IDENTIFYING TO THE PUBLIC WHAT IS, OR HAS TRANSPIRED. CONSISTENT WITH THIS ESTABLISHED POLICY THE PMUA LAST NIGHT WAS FOR THE SECOND TIME ASKED TO IDENTIFY THE BASIS FOR THE 1.2 MILLION DOLLAR CLAIM PRESENTLY IN ARBITRATION; MS. LONDON REFUSED. SHE STATED THAT SHE HAD CONFERRED WITH THE PMUA ATTORNEY, AND OTHERS, AND IT WAS THEIR DECISION THAT TO INFORM THE PUBLIC AT THIS TIME WAS NOT DESIRABLE. WHEN I CALLED TO HER THAT I AS A FORMER PANELIST OF THE AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION KNEW OF NO BAR EXISTING IN THE aaa REGULATIONS PREVENTING THE PARTIES FROM ADVISING WHOMEVER THEY CHOSE THE ISSUES IN DISPUTE, SHE REPLIED BY TELLING ME TO SHOW HER 'CASE LAW' ON INVESTIGATION WE CAN NOT FIND ANY CASE LAW BECAUSE IT APPEARS, AS ONE MIGHT SUSPECT,THE MATTER HAS NEVER BEEN CONTESTED.

THE QUESTION IS WHY IS THE PMUA AFRAID TO IDENTIFY THE BASIS OF THE SUITE? WE DO NOT SEE THAT BY SO DOING THEY COMPROMISE THEIR POSITION, AND IF THIS IS THEIR HYPOTHESIS THEN THEY COULD EXPLAIN AS TO WHY IT MIGHT COMPROMISE THEM IN THE PROCEEDINGS. IT IS THE WRITER'S OPINION THAT THERE IS NO RATIONAL EXPLANATION. THE EXPLANATION LIES IN THE SAME DARK CHAMBER IN WHICH UNTIL YESTERDAY THE $107,000 JOHNSON SETTLEMENT WAS BURIED...WITH THE NUMEROUS 'IRREGULARITIES' SURROUNDING IT.

WHEN THE BOARD WAA ASKED WHETHER THEY WERE GOING TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT OF THE 1.2million isuue which was before them there was an ambiguous reaction. Commissioner Mitchel said that there was no money with which to pay. The plaintiffs had resigned and already been $275,000 ( for what?). Commissioner Dunn made a long commentary but I lfailed to hear him take an definable position. . 4 of the Commissioners did not comment. I did not hear any of them make an affirmative, unambiguous statement that they would vote for or against the unresolved settlement offer which is before them. Commissioner Mitclel's emphatic commentary regarding there being "no money, so that is that" is hollow. If the Arbitrator rules in favor of the claimants,and makes an award the PMUA will be compelled to pay. If the PMUA declines to make the payment awarded the AAA decision will be entered in the Court of Jurisdiction. The court will issue a Judgment against the PMUA. Mr. Perry will be compelled to sell some more bonds, or rates will be increased to cover the short fall.
Appeals from Arbitration are unusual and seldom successful. The rules permit appeal within a very narrow corridor.

How did we get here? 22,000,000 in Bond Debt guaranteed by the General Obligation of the City. A 170 employee staff. Not previously mentioned it was also revealed last night that the PMUA had made a settlement of $157,000 with the County for having misdirected the delivery of certain refuse for a period of 6 years!

All of this and the Mayor refuses to place even 1 Commissioner of the City Council's election on the Board.

Bob said...

Anonymous must be a politician or friend of one to think this kind of money is chump change. They are spending my money and the money of other tax payers. Don't tell me this money is nothing! I wish I made this kind of money and the paperwork better be right!

Robert Bolmer

Nat Singleton said...

I don't think I'm senile and I don't think I was senile then, when I was on the PUMA board (some of you may disagree) but I have no recollection of a specific total dollar amount being discussed, let alone being approved by the board in the matter pertaining to John Johnson's separation from the PMUA.
PMUA Board Members are local citizens and as such are dependent on legal services and their advice, mandated by the state to keep us out of situations such as this. We have to trust in their advice and normally do not get involved in the day to day minutia of running the 'business.' I will say that the settlement of $107,000, on its face, breaches the minutia barrier and if that dollar amount was not brought to our attention it should have been.
The easiest way to clear the air would be for the PUMA to publish on its web site the relevant documentation and timeline for all to see and vet and avoid all the back and forth OPRA request.

As to anonymous comment, I'll remind them of one made by Everett Dirksen, 'A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.'

Anonymous said...

So -- this individual worked for the authority for a year.

Then he gets a "severance package" of $107K?

Very cushy.

Want to guess he made some "contributions" to someone (or many someones) campaign?

The PMUA is not a private company. Executives and management have been giving themselves bonus and all sorts of perks that are not appropriate for a public agency.

It's crazy that executives voluntarily resign -- then demand money. It was their choice to leave. That's called quiting. A six figure salary and being executive means you will be in stressful situations -- that's why you get the big bucks.

If the commissions give in to this -- it's time for petitions to be circulated to citizens, calling for dissolution, putting pressure on the council, going to the governor, going to the attorney general and OPRA EVERY financial record in the PMUA -- and seek prosecution when the dirt is found (which it will).

This stinks to high heaven. Enough is enough!

Anonymous said...

LOL you aguys are a JOKE

Philip Charles said...

I requested the resolutions for the settlement agreements which is probably what triggered the PMUA attorney to "memorialize" it last night. There are more settlements that the PMUA has granted and has not made public. This is the first peeling of the onion. Like we have seen with the PMUA, there are many many layers. I don't know if the settlements are warranted but I do know that current PMUA contracts with executives are so open ended that it leaves the public open for fraud and abuse. Who writes a contract that states 30 vacation days or other greater number; 20 sick days or other greater number; 8 personal days or other greater number. Well, you get the point! Plainfield property owners are certain to get the short end of the stick when the commissioners approve these deals.

Anonymous said...

Will you dare send a copy to the prosecutor or should I?

Anonymous said...

To 11:43 am, I am not sure if you are referring to the PMUA guys or the people who are demanding to know where 107K plus is going.

If it is the former, I am with you. If it is the latter, you must have more money than Gates. Do you want to adopt me?

Anonymous said...

I am sending a link to this post to the Prosecutor's Office. Thank you Dan!

Anonymous said...

The word is from Hugo’s is that Eric will receive $450,000 and David $275,000

Dan said...

@ 11:36 AM -- Bernice got the skinny, it's more than you heard.

Rebecca Williams said...

I think the prosecutor and the NJ Attorney General should look into all that is coming to light. That Watson and Ervin are getting huge settlements is, as I have reiterated elsewhere, outrageous and deeply offensive to rate payers, many of whom have been struggling with PMUA rates for years. This should have been arbitrated, in my layperson's view, although I feel that these individuals (Watson and Ervin) should have received NOTHING additional, since they resigned. I voted against the appointments of Dunn and Sanders, as I felt that the organization needed new blood--not recycling, and certainly not in the form of two old business partners. I know that there are residents who want to serve, but the mayor only puts up people in her personal sphere. Frankly, it seems not to matter whether the council says yea or nay to PMUA appointments under this administration--if we say nay, the holdovers will still have voting power to vote in favor of the settlements, and if we vote to put new people on, we get Dunn and Sanders, neither of whom convinced me that they would bring anything to help ratepayers to the table. That the beginning of their respective tenures on the PMUA should be marked by this egregious and outrageous payoff suggests to me that we will be in for more of the same.

Rebecca