POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Investigation Finds Public Employees Were Paid for Union Business

A state investigation has found public employees were being paid to conduct union business. Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission of Investigation Philip Degnan said several millions of dollars of taxpayer money was used to pay the employees who were doing union business. He spoke with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the findings of the investigation.

The investigation covers about a five-year time period. “What the investigation focused on was public employees that were elected or given union positions and then taken out of their role as a public employee, for example as a corrections officer or a policeman, fireman, teacher and they spend their days doing work on union business — dealing with grievances and other issues that might arise involving negotiating contracts and collective bargaining,” Degnan explained.

Degnan said the issuance of the report signifies the end of the investigation. “We’ve made the referrals that are mentioned in the report and the recommendations that have been driven by the investigation and hope that legislators and the governor’s office will take a look at it and go along with some of our recommendations,” he said.

The investigation didn’t find any criminal activity, according to Degnan. “We focus on the statutory framework that permits this structure to exist in the state of New Jersey is fractured. There are loopholes and it exists in several different places in the books,” he said. “One of our recommendations is that those varied statutory guidelines be looked at and either codified in a single place or certainly made uniform so that the administration of this kind of leave can be done in a more effective and more transparent manner.”

The investigation focused primarily on state and local government employees and a variety of unions, including teachers’ unions, police and fire unions and corrections officer unions, Degnan said.

While Degnan was not able to say how the investigation began or give a specific number of people involved, he said, “It’s a widespread issue. It’s an issue that covers various parts of the state.”

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