Last Monday the Middletown Township Committee held its monthly workshop meeting. The meeting lasted about an hour, which was nearly double the time of recent workshop meetings of the past. It was a busy meeting, a lot was discussed. Namely the retirement of Middletown Police Chief Robert Oches. Upon his retirement effective August 1st, Chief Oches will walk away with a $249, 338 check for unused sick and vacation time that has been accumulated over his 40 years of service.
Now in general I have no problem with this, Chief Oches served Middletown admirably over his 40 year career and played by the rules. He is entitled to this payout and I wish him well and hope he uses it wisely during his retirement. However, I do happen to agree with the members of the Township Committee and think these types of payouts are extravagant budget busters that need to end. But what really annoys me most about this is the self-righteous indignation that was expressed while discussing this issue.
As usual, our very partisan, all Republican Township Committee placed blame for these types of payouts at the feet of the Democrats in Trenton. They implored the Democratically controlled state legislature to do something about this problem and couldn't believe why they would allow this to go on.
The Committee members seem to forget however that the Democrats did do something about. They sent a bill to the desk of Governor Christie during the early days of his 1st term in office that capped the payouts for unused sick time and vacation days at $15K! Christie however vetoed the bill because it didn't go far enough. He wanted to eliminate (unrealistically in my opinion) these types of payout all together.
You can watch the whole discussion starting at the 19:50 mark of the video.
As it turns out, all the belly-aching that the Township Committee did last week about having to shell out nearly $250K to our retiring police chief, seems to have caught the attention of NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney, who along with Monmouth County State Senator Joe Kyrillos (a Middletown resident) issued a joint statement - that should make Middletown Township Committee members happy - which said, "We continue to see hundreds of thousands of dollars in payouts to employees simply because they were fortunate enough not to get sick, it's a policy that is grossly unfair to the taxpayers of New Jersey and one the state cannot sustain given our current budgetary issues." according to yesterday's Asbury Park Press. The article continued to state however that Governor Christie's all or nothing position on the issue hasn't changed.
So maybe it's time for Gerry Scharfenberger, Tony Fiore, Stephanie Murrary, Kevin Settembrino and Steve Massel to put-up or shut-up and issue a resolution calling on their beloved governor to compromise with members of the state legislature on this issue and accept a cap on these type of employee windfalls upon retirement. After all, it would be a whole lot better to pay out just $15K to a retiree than the quarter $Million or more that towns like Middletown are in the process of paying out now or in the future.
As always, you can download a copy of the Meeting Agenda that contains the discussion items and the proposed resolutions and ordinances that were voted on or presented during the meeting. A box around an item is a link, bringing you further into the document to that resolution or ordinance. At the end of the resolution there will be a link bringing you back to the agenda. Attached to this agenda is also the monthly bill list, so that everyone can see how the Township is spending our tax dollars.