Monday, February 01, 2010

Where did they go?

Has the City of Trenton mysteriously reduced its payroll by hundreds of people?

We were doing a little online research last week for a project and discovered something odd on the Data Universe site run by the Asbury Park Press.

On this particular site, you can do searches on NJ Public Employees to check salary records as they relate to the public pensions.

In the past, if we wanted to see…for instance…how much Mr. Palmer was paid, you could plug his name and Trenton City into the appropriate boxes on the search form and within moments up would pop a grid with the information you wanted. It’s all legit and all public information.

The other day when we checked, we couldn’t find that information any longer. In fact, we could only find information on 19 city employees contributing to the Public Employees Retirement System. Four of them were Councilpersons Annette Lartigue, Cordelia Staton, Gino Melone and Paul Pintella.

Gone was the Mayor, Chief of Staff, Department Heads, etc. And we plugged in names of Division Directors and Staff people, still no information.

Checking further…we could find 574 Trenton employees enrolled in the Police and Fire Retirement System.

At the Board of Education, there are the records of 799 employees who pay into the Public Employees Retirement System available. Another 1173 school employees are in the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund.

Similarly, the Trenton Community Charter School has 85 employees show up on the listing.

The Trenton Housing Authority has 58 employees on the books and eight show up under the Trenton Parking Authority records.

But where are the Mayor and the bulk of the City of Trenton employees?

Why aren’t their records available online?

Is this part of the legal tussle over the allegedly illegal raises that city council unquestioningly/unknowingly approved for the Mayor and his administration staff in a questionable resolution in 2008?

Has the administration taken all the public employee (with the exception of the 19 names we found) somehow out of the public record in an effort to hide what certain people were being paid? Was this done, in part, to cover up the fact that the Mayor and Department Director salaries were no longer published in the ordinances as they had been prior to the raise granted in 2003? Or in part to hide the fact that these same salaries were not fixed by ordinance but rather a salary range had been adopted…possibly illegally, with the Mayor approving salaries at his discretion…without council’s knowing consent?

We think this stinks of very fishy business and the city administration needs to make sure this information is publicly available.

And all those wannabes vying for the big chair in the office on the second floor of City Hall should take heed. A pledge to return the city to fixed salaries (not ranges) adopted by ordinance and published is required if you want the citizens of Trenton to vote for you.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it sounds like they do have something to hide. Hopefully this next election will act like a laxative and get all of the garbage out of the system (to put it politely).

Old Mill Hill said...

What's alarming is how they can accomplish this feat?

One presumes that the website gets the information from the state rather than from the municipality.

In turn, the city must report their payroll and the pension contributions to the system.

Where is the access point that allows the city to control who sees this information?

Anonymous said...

Very scary.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, because before APP revamped that site (2008?), the Trenton employees were there. I know because my salary was always listed lower than what was accurate. The site reads that all PERS members are listed so could this have something to do with the City not contributing their share of the pension money they collect? They need it to fill their coffers so they 'eliminate' the employees and their contributions??

Old Mill Hill said...

Can't say for sure the last time we checked the site for salary information, but it couldn't have been more than 12-14 months ago.

City employees were there at that time.

As regards the accuracy, I believe there is a lag of about a year in what was posted and a disclaimer that actual ammounts paid to an employee may be higher than what is listed.

The theory that the witholding of the pension payments may be contributing to the lack of data available has been suggested. But then why are police and fire and schools employees listed? And what about that handful of city hall employees?

The mystery continues; the stench strengthens.