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Acting New Jersey State Comptroller Kevin Walsh. (Photo: Office of the Governor).

Comptroller: Keansburg lavished employees with benefits

Police chief, clerk received payments for unused time off barred under contract

By Nikita Biryukov, May 05 2021 10:16 am

Keansburg’s police chief took 11 weeks of paid time off in 2018 while receiving payments for days of unused vacation time barred by his employment contract, the Office of the State Comptroller found.

“Keansburg’s Police Chief was granted vacation leave on the taxpayer’s dime for more than 20 percent of the work year,” acting State Comptroller Kevin D. Walsh said. “Eleven weeks of vacation is unreasonable and wasteful.”

The comptroller’s audit found to chief, who was paid a salary of roughly $208,000 in 2018, was paid for 50 days of unused vacation time the same year. He received payment for 30 days of vacation time in 2017, when his salary was just under $204,000.

The comptroller also found the borough disbursed $451,000 in longevity payments over the two years, with slightly more than three quarters of the payments going to police officers, who become eligible for such payments after just one year, compared to five years for other employees.

The payments, essentially bonuses based on the length of an individual’s employment, ran between 2% and 10% of officers’ salaries. Three members of the borough’s police force received a bonus of more than $10,000.

“Longevity payments are nothing but bonuses that float under the radar,” Walsh said. “We found instances of selling back comp time, sick days, and in some cases months of vacation days. Government transparency and accountability is diminished when taxpayers fund what are essentially yearly bonuses that are all but untraceable to taxpayers.”

Keansburg’s clerk also received payments for his unused vacation time and sick days despite their contract barring such payments.

Between the clerk and the police chief, the borough paid roughly $95,000 for unused time off. The borough told the comptroller’s office it would no longer make allow the chief and clerk to sell back unused time off.

The comptroller’s office also found Keansburg awarded its employees with far more time off than other public employers. Police officers who had worked there for more than 21 years got between 30 and 45 vacation days, compared to the 25 vacation days given to state workers with a similar length of tenure.

The chief was also paid for compensatory time, and two other borough employees received thousands for in opt-out waiver payments despite being enrolled in the State Health Benefits program.

“These are the types of excessive benefits unheard of for state employees or private sector workers,” Walsh said. “Keansburg residents deserve to receive the highest level of service and the best possible value from their public employees.”

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