Originally published at newjersey.watchdog.org - republished under agreement. Investigative reporting by Mark Lagerkvist.
Double-dipping Sheriff Michael Saudino will ride again in Bergen County at taxpayers’ expense.
Armed with $100,000 in campaign cash, Saudino outgunned Democratic challenger James Mordaga at the polls last week. The victory assures the sheriff of nearly $268,000 a year from public coffers – $138,000 in county salary plus $129,984 from pension as retired Emerson Township police chief – for another three-year term.
Not only that, but Saudino’s posse of four undersheriffs are also double-dippers. Together, the five officials rake in nearly $1.1 million a year – $583,000 in salaries plus $512,256 from pensions as retired cops.
“Double-dipping, to me, is a cone with two scoops of ice cream on it,” Saudino told reporters last month. “We’re not doing anything illegal. There’s not even any ethics laws on the books saying we shouldn’t be doing this.”
Overall, the election did nothing to change the reign of twin-scooping sheriffs in New Jersey.
Eighty percent of sheriffs – in 17 of 21 counties – will continue to collect millions in salaries plus retirement checks from the state’s wild, wild pension system. Eight of the sheriffs are Democrats; nine are Republicans. The practice is legal under state law, but costly for taxpayers.
Incumbent double-dippers were re-elected last week in eight other territories – Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.
The new sheriff in Ocean County will soon join the ranks of double-dippers.
Republican Michael Mastronardy is expected to retire as Toms River police chief as he takes office as sheriff. His pension, yet to be approved by a state board, will pay him at least $122,000 a year. His salary, set by county freeholders, will also be six figures.
The late Sheriff William Polhemus – Mastronardy’s predecessor – received a $122,669 salary plus $43,272 a year from pension until his death last December. Acting Sheriff William Sommeling has also been collected a pension on top of his salary.
A New Jersey Watchdog investigation last month found 46 top county cops – 17 sheriffs and 29 undersheriffs – are double-dippers.
Collectively, they rake in $8.3 million a year – $3.4 million in retirement pay plus $4.9 million in salaries. On average, they get $181,033 a year – $107,145 in county pay and $73,888 from pension.
For New Jersey Watchdog’s list of double-dipping sheriffs and undersheriffs – minus Mastronardy – click here or visit http://newjersey.watchdog.org/files/2013/10/2013-DD-sheriffs-web.pdf.