More than 70 Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners employees are terminated
Published: Monday, February 07, 2011, 1:43 PM Updated: Monday, February 07, 2011, 1:49 PM
By Star-Ledger Staff
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John O'Boyle/The Star-LedgerView of the The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners facility on Wilson Avenue in Newark
More than 70 employees of the scandal-ridden Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners were terminated today — representing 12 percent of the agency’s
At the same time, all spending on outside counsel retained by the commission was frozen.
Gov. Chris Christie, in announcing the terminations, renewed his call for veto power over the actions of the PVSC and other water and sewage
authorities. “I cannot imagine that the PVSC is the only place in New Jersey where this is happening,” Christie said.
Proposals to give the governor such veto authority have been locked up in the Legislature.
According to the governor, the payroll cuts — combined with earlier reductions will save $10 million in salary and benefits that will result in
direct property tax relief for the municipalities that are billed by the PVSC.
Passaic Valley, which operates the largest wastewater treatment plant in New Jersey, handles the sewage of more than 1.3 million people in 48
communities throughout Essex, Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties.
The new round of firings come after six of Passaic Valley’s seven commissioners were fired by Christie two weeks ago in the wake of disclosures in
the Star-Ledger of widespread nepotism, patronage and insider deals for the politically connected.
“Instead of taking steps to reform the commission, the members of the board who we terminated over a week ago repeatedly engaged in a pattern of
abuse,” Christie said in a press briefing in Trenton.
In the past seven days, three top managers were arrested on charges of official misconduct, in connection with allegations that they used PVSC
employees to perform repairs and improvements on their homes while they were supposed to be at work. The chief financial officer resigned last week
and 11 others — one the wife of a commissioner as well as a Garfield councilman who was making a six-figure salary — were fired.
The authority, with a $161 million budget, has always long had a reputation as a political job mill. An examination by the Star-Ledger in 2005 found a
payroll filled with friends and relatives of those with political connections, and lucrative, no-bid contracts that were awarded to political
But records obtained by the newspaper showed the commissioners had a system that kept score of the hires. They called it the “commissioners’
rounds” and those rounds were numbered, not unlike NFL draft rounds, keeping track over whose turn it was to give someone a job. One commissioner
picked his daughter-in-law when his turn came. Another picked his wife.
Other records showed two of the highest-paid employees on the payroll were former Passaic Valley commissioners, responsible for overseeing the agency
before being hired to big-salary jobs. Millions more went to outside law firms with political ties.
Christie last year forced out Passaic Valley’s former executive director, Bryan Christiansen, a former mayor of Edgewater who was getting paid more
than $313,000 a year. In July, he pressed the commission to hire Wayne Forrest, the former Somerset County prosecutors, to lead the agency.