Passaic City Council’s Benefits Scandal Continues & Continues…

9 08 2007

Meredith Mandell –

Passaic, NJ – City Council members evaded questions Wednesday about why they voted to keep a resolution on the books that gave themselves and the mayor better medical benefits than the city’s nearly 700 employees.

Councilman Gerardo Fernandez hung up the phone, while Councilman Marcellus Jackson did not return phone calls for comment. In May, the council voted to grant elected officials post-retirement medical benefits after 15 years of service instead of the requisite 25 years for all city employees.

In a departure, Mayor Samuel Rivera said Wednesday he now favors rescinding the resolution.

The resolution could mean thousands of dollars a year in savings for the part-time elected officials. Employees who retire and do not meet the years of service requirement must pay monthly premiums ranging from $364 to more than $1,800, depending on their level of coverage, according to the Web site for the Division of Pensions and Benefits.

The vote to rescind deadlocked at 3-3, with Maritza Colon-Montanez abstaining. The tie vote meant that the original resolution would stand. Colon-Montanez did not return calls for comment.

Fernandez and Jackson both claimed last week they had misread the original resolution and thought it was wrong to approve a resolution for elected officials only.

Councilman Jose Garcia was the only council member willing to comment who voted to keep the original resolution.

“I believe that the way it is now, is the right way,” he said after the meeting Tuesday night. “I believe after all the hard work you do, if you get benefits it will help you in your senior years.”

Council President Gary Schaer, who last week sent an apology letter calling his original vote in May, “an egregious error,” and promised to put forth a new resolution rescinding it, said he was surprised he could not gain the four votes necessary to adopt it.

“Based on the commentary of several council members I had read in the Herald News, I assumed the vote would go in another direction,” Schaer said after the meeting Tuesday. “Obviously, the three members of the council who voted not to rescind felt differently than I did in terms of its importance.”

Schaer said he did not anticipate trying to put forth another resolution to rescind the medical benefits package, unless council members approach him and tell them they will change their minds.

Council members who said they wanted to rescind the vote were puzzled why the others did not.

Councilmen Chaim Munk and Daniel Schwartz were disappointed with the result.

“I wish I knew why they voted the way they did,” said Munk, who claimed that he misread the original resolution.

On Monday, Mayor Sammy Rivera, who has 18 years of public service, said he never saw a copy of the May resolution before his business administrator Greg Hill put the item on the council agenda. Rivera said that Hill’s resolution was designed to help Rivera if he decides to quit public service before 25 years.

On Tuesday night, Hill said he did not want to comment.

Munk said the resolution was not a “deal” to help the mayor get retirement benefits. “There was no deal made at all … this is something that should have never been voted on,” he said.

Rivera said Wednesday he felt the council should have rescinded the resolution, which is a departure from what he said last week.

“In my heart, they really should rescind it because everything points that they did it for me,” he said. “Guess what? I don’t need it because I am going to be here a long time … maybe past 2013.”

The resolution was the last one on the agenda. The council voted on it after 9 p.m., when most of the public had gone home.

Earlier in the evening, two residents criticized the council for giving perks in a climate of rising property taxes.

Don’t you believe that there should be some limit to your opportunistic selfishness and greed?” asked Passaic resident Anthony Catania.

How you guys thought you were going to snooker this thing with health benefits is beyond my comprehension,” Gino Giaconia said. “Please think about the taxpayers here and think about the assemblyman seat you have, Mr. Schaer.”

View original article here.




3 responses

9 08 2007

Every day we see the same garbage. What I don’t understand is why do our councilmen feel that they can blatantly take our wallets out of our pockets. Is the Passaic Community so Stupid? Do you think that I can take a wallet out of someone’s house and they will be quiet? What kind of people live in our town? Are we On drugs? Do we all follow our community leaders blindly? Well may be we should withhold from tuition all the extra tax money we have to spend. The ones who dictate our tuition schedule tells us to vote for these guys.

9 08 2007

It’s well know that Maritza Colon-Montanez works for Gary Schaer, he got her elected, and she would do anything he wants. Her abstaining points to a carefully laid out plan by Gary.

Gary always does these kinds of tricks, like how he voted against the tax increase after the measure already had enough votes to pass regardless.

For Gary to say that he assumed his colleagues would vote for recinding the ordinance because of their comments in the paper makes him look like an idiot. Gary, don’t you talk to your fellow councilmembers? Or do you make all decisions based on what you read in the paper?

10 08 2007

Well luckily only the “Passaic Park” part of Passaic has to worry about taxes. The other 3/4 of Passaic merely survives off our taxes.

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