WCBS-TV New York

Many N.J. Lawmakers Have Second Government Job

WCBS-TV New York — Sunday, March 5, 2006

(AP) NEWARK — More than a third of New Jersey's legislators hold another elected office or government job, ranging from part-time borough lawyer to trauma surgery professor.

The practice is called double dipping, and according to a survey by the Center for Public Integrity, no where is the practice as prevalent as in New Jersey.

Critics say it can lead to conflicts-of-interest and allow lawmakers to pad their retirement pay at the expense of taxpayers, who end up footing the bill for two pensions.

All Garden State legislators make $49,000 a year. But, in some of the examples of second jobs and their pay, state Sen. Sharpe James also earns $184,140 as the mayor of Newark, and Hudson County Assemblyman Charles Epps Jr. makes $210,520 as the head of Jersey City's schools.

One legislator, Assemblyman Brian Stack of Hudson, triple dips as the mayor of Union City and is a county freeholder.

Epps Jr. says he sees no ethical or professional red flags by having both jobs.

"I see a real connection in being superintendent and serving in the Assembly," Epps Jr. told The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark. "I can do a lot of good for schoolchildren and public education."

Thirty-eight states don't allow legislators to hold another job as an elected official or governmental worker. In Indiana, double dipping is a felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Gov. Jon Corzine is not against legislators holding more than one office, but says they should pick one to formulate their pension pay. However, legislation that would force retirees to go with one job to calculate their pension has stalled without a hearing.

"It isn't fair to taxpayers, who end up paying for two health care plans and two pensions," Phyllis Salowe-Kaye of New Jersey Citizen Action, a government watchdog group, said.

Eight of 12 lawmakers who joined the Assembly in January hold a second office or tax-paid job. First-year Assemblyman Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, is a teacher, and freshman Assemblywoman Oadline Truitt is a librarian at a middle school.

But freshman Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, gave up her 15-year post as a freeholder citing conflict of interest concerns.

"You can't fully commit yourself to two elected positions," Handlin said. "It's impossible to manage local priorities and larger responsibilities of a legislative district. In the end, somebody gets shortchanged."

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