Here’s the next mystery in New Jersey politics: who is protecting Todd Caliguire?
A former Republican gubernatorial candidate, Caliguire was named executive director of the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission (NJDWC) by Gov. Chris Christie in 2015. His salary is $174,000-a-year.
Now, fourteen months into the administration of a progressive Democratic governor, this former Republican officeholder who campaigned for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is still on the job. As a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2005, he proposed reducing the state payroll by 15%.
Tim Eustace left his 38th district Assembly seat last April to become the NJDWC deputy executive director – a new position that was created for him at the same $174,000 salary.
About a month later, Eustace and Caliguire quietly switched jobs.
Caliguire is now the deputy executive director, but remains one of the highest-paid employees of the Murphy administration.
That’s not bad for a perennial candidate who serves two terms as a Bergen County freeholder, but also lost two race for state senate, one for county executive, and one for governor – Caliguire finished seventh in a field of seven, with 2.4% of the vote.
Caliguire had more than a decade in the state pension system — he worked as an assistant counsel to Gov. Tom Kean from 1982 to 1987 and spent six years a freeholder — but records show that he cashed out at some point. He rejoined the state employee retirement system on July 1, 2012 after Christie appointed him to the State Commission of Investigation.
Now 64, Caliguire needs three more years of public employment to fully vest in a pension system he walked away from years ago.
His continued employment is even more puzzling since his brother, former Somerset County freeholder Mark Caliguire, is bashing Murphy as he seeks the Republican nomination for State Assembly in the 16th district against incumbents Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) and Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough).
Somerset County Democratic chair Peg Schaffer said she wasn’t bothered by Mark Caliguire’s candidacy.
“We welcome the challenge,” Schaffer said. “We think Mark Caliguire is a weak candidate.”
Mark Caliguire lost to Zwicker and Freiman in 2017 and was defeated in his 2018 bid for re-election to the freeholder board.
Howard Burrell, the chairman of the NJDWC, praised Caliguire’s skills as an administrator – he called him “very capable” but said he didn’t know why the second job was created.
“Tim could easily operate the agency on his own,” Burrell told the New Jersey Globe. “This is my fifth year as a commissioner and most of that time we had just an executive director.”
Burrell has some personal experience with Christie’s “elections have consequences’ rule.
A Democrat who served as a Sussex County freeholder from 1999 to 2002, Burrell lost his job at the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development about six months after Christie became governor.
Unless there are no Democrats interested in Caliguire’s highly-paid job – or if the Murphy administration simply forgot about him – it seems likely that someone is protecting the Christie holdover.
Some Christie loyalists survived for a little while as a way to ease the transition.
When Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto became the president/CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, his predecessor, Wayne Hasenbalg, stayed on at the same salary. By the end of last year, he was gone.
Charles McKenna lasted eight months at the embattled New Jersey Schools Development Authority, and Michele Brown lasted four at Choose New Jersey.