UNION COUNTY — A citizen’s group severely criticized the “outrageous waste and patronage” in the Union County Sheriff’s Department in a report on the 2010 county budget.
In a section focusing on public safety and corrections personnel, the Union County Watchdog Association report says, “The situation between Public Safety, County Police, the Sheriff’s Department and Emergency Management is incestuous with the taxpayers getting screwed. These departments stand alone only to breed patronage jobs.”
Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who is running for re-election after 33 years in the office, said that he did not feel that the Watchdog Association document merited a response and suggested that county residents should review his department’s annual report.
According to the Watchdog Association’s report, Howard Gibson earned $113,793 as the director of Public Safety before he transferred to the Sheriff’s Department and was made a captain in 2008.
He was replaced by Richard Childs, a CPA and former furniture salesman, who served as acting Public Safety director until May 2009 at a salary of $111,793. Childs then became the chief of the newly-created Economic Crime/Inspection Bureau in the Sheriff’s Department, according to the report.
County Police Chief Daniel Vaniska assumed the title of acting Public Safety director and held both positions for over six months, the report says. Finally, retired Berkeley Heights Police Capt. Andrew Moran took over the position in February, as soon as he could do so without affecting his annual $85,733 pension. Moran joined the county payroll in August 2009 in a non-public safety position at a salary of $113,793, according to the association report, then made contributions to the campaigns of two incumbent freeholders in October.
According to the report, Union County will spend just under $54 million on ‘public safety and corrections’ personnel in 2010.
The association recommends eliminating duplicated functions within the Sheriff’s Department, such as the consumer protection investigator and economic crime inspection bureau chief. The report also recommends eliminating the county police force, since it is redundant with all of the local police forces already covering the county.
The Weights and Measures division should also be eliminated, with the already-existing state agency taking over the functions performed at the county level, according to the association.
The full report is available at http://unioncountywatchdog.org.
The Watchdog Association is a non-partisan, non-profit organization working on behalf of taxpayers to monitor the activity of county government and advocate change to eliminate waste, corruption and incompetence.
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