UNION COUNTY — For the last 11 years, Sheriff Ralph G. Froehlich has been secretly collecting an $85,000 taxpayer-funded pension in addition to his six figure public salary.
State pension officials have confirmed that Froehlich retired on June 1, 1999 without skipping a single paycheck due to special legislation created for the politically-connected ex-cop.
The double dipping could be a significant issue for some voters as Froehlich campaigns for an unprecedented 21th term.
Since he retired, Froehlich banked $2.2 million in taxpayer money between his paychecks of $142,728 a year plus the $84,490 annual pension.
State officials are wrestling with bankrupt public pension funds, which currently have an unfunded liability of at least $145 billion, according to Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Biggs estimates that the poorly managed pension systems could cost residents $17,000 each.
“The true value of public pension shortfalls is far higher than even the $32 billion reported by New Jersey,” said Biggs in an article published in the Star-Ledger on Feb. 23 detailing how state officials sugar coat the problem by projecting inflated rates of return for their portfolios of stocks and bonds.
Froehlich is facing a stiff challenge from Charles Mitchell, the Baptist minister and career law enforcement officer who is leading the Column B Democrats for Change in the June 8 Democratic primary election.
Froehlich leads the regular political organization primary election slate on Column A.
”New Jersey’s culture of corruption blurs the lines between cops and robbers,” said James J. Devine, a Democratic strategist.
“Greedy politicians like Ralph Froehlich are responsible for New Jersey’s high taxes,” said Devine. “It’s that simple.”
“Robbing taxpayers is a good example of what it means to be a regular politician,” said Devine.
A lieutenant on the Elizabeth Police Department for 20 years prior to his election as sheriff in 1977, Froehlich retired based on 491 months of service.
Froehlich was elected Union County Sheriff in 1977 and took office in 1978. His pension is based on the $103,162 county salary was received in 1999, when he retired.
Former Assemblyman Neil Cohen sponsored a raise in 2002 so Froehlich now gets $145,000.
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