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Former Assemblyman J. Edward Kline

Ex-Assemblyman accused of stealing employee pension funds

Lawsuit says Kline Construction defrauded 14 union employees

By David Wildstein, July 08 2019 6:38 pm

A construction company run by former Assemblyman Ed Kline (R-Brigantine) stole money from the retirement fund of their unionized employees, according to a Vineland Daily Journal report.

A group of fourteen former employees of Kline Construction filed a lawsuit in federal court last month alleging that the company took “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

According to the lawsuit, Katherine Kline-Penate used money from the company’s 401K plan to buy her husband a Corvette and pay him a six-figure salary even though he didn’t work for Kline Construction.  Kline-Penate is also accused of spending money on a boat.

Among the accusations against Kline Construction was that they deducted monies from payroll checks, but in some cases never opened a 401K account.

“These fourteen men worked hard to put food on the table for their families today, and to help secure their families’ financial futures tomorrow,” Joseph Lento, one of the attorneys for the fourteen plaintiffs said in a press release. “Little did they know at the time the lengths Kline Construction and the other defendants apparently were willing to go in order to keep these men in the dark about what was really happening to their retirement savings.”

The employees involved were part of a division of the company that built natural gas and distribution lines and were members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local S-76, the Daily Journal reported.

The lawsuit alleges that Kline told a member of Laborers International Local 172 that if he went to a lawyer, “he could have them pulled over while out on the road and have drugs planted in their work vehicles.”

“Threats of this nature concerning employees’ access to their retirement funds was commonplace within the company,” the lawsuit claims.

Kline, a Brigantine Republican, was elected to the Assembly in 1983 and served until losing re-election in 1989.  Kline also served as mayor of Brigantine but resigned in 1989 after voters changed the form of city government in what was viewed as a referendum on his leadership.

As mayor, Kline was under fire for committing $1.5 million of municipal funds to buy land owned by a political ally, former Mayor John Rogge.  Rogge had previously tried to sell his land to private developers for considerably less money.

Kline is the president of Kline Construction.

“We believe the allegations in our complaint make clear that Kline Construction’s actions here were not the result of careless bookkeeping,” said Frank Schirripa, another plaintiff attorney. “Instead, and as we allege, the defendants made a concerted effort to steal from their employees’ futures to fund the company’s and at least one executive’s present.”

Kline did not immediately respond to a 6:14 PM e-mail seeking comment.
Kline Construction

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