Three Monmouth County undersheriffs are among 51 county law enforcement officials in New Jersey who still receive salaries while also drawing a pension, according to a report by New Jersey Watchdog.
The investigation found that 17 sheriffs and 34 undersheriffs collectively earn $9.1 million a year "double dipping" — $3.7 million in retirement pay on top of $5.4 million in salaries — while utilizing loopholes under Gov. Chris Christie's pension reforms.
Locally, Undersheriff Robert Dawson earns $190,412 annually, with $96,432 of his compensation from his pension. Undersheriff Michael Donovan pulls in $179,699 a year; $85,932 in pension. Additionally, Undersheriff Theodore Freeman makes $151,345 annually; $59,208 in pension.
New Jersey Watchdog reports that participants in police pension plans qualify for "special" retirement after 25 years of service but often find opportunities to get back onto the public payroll, benefitting "from creative strategies, loopholes in laws and lax enforcement of rules."
“It’s not a great deal for taxpayers, and it’s something we need to fix,” state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, told NBC 4 New York, which produced the report in concert with New Jersey Watchdog. “The pension system is to support you when you’re done working. It isn’t there for you to enrich yourself by taking on another public salary.”
Beck also has sponsored a bill that would suspend state pension payments to public retirees who return to work at salaries beyond $15,000, but it has stalled in committee, the report states.
Essex County's Armando Fontoura makes the most among county officials while "double-dipping," the report states, earning $1.14 million in pension checks, while drawing a salary for the past 22 years.
“Does it look bad? Yes. No question about it, it looks bad. Was it legal? Yes,” Fontoura told NBC 4 New York.