UNION COUNTY – New details have emerged concerning the political deal that allowed Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich to collect a pension without retiring from his elected office.
Froehlich convinced top GOP politicians in Trenton to change the law to allow him to do what would be a crime for any regular emergency worker. Sources say Sen. Raymond Lesniak persuaded Republican Senate President Donald DiFrancesco to sponsor a bill to permit elected officials to “retire from the office to which the member was elected and continue to receive a full salary for that office.”
Under Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) rules, a law enforcement or firefighting retiree must suspend his or her retirement and reenroll if appointed to a position with administrative or supervisory duties within six months after retirement. That provision is a requirement under state law (N.J.S.A. 43:16A-3.1) but within weeks of when Republican Christine Todd Whitman signed the law to allow Froehlich cheat taxpayers, his retirement papers were approved.
Froehlich refused to apologize for taking an $85,000 pension at the same time as he collects his $145,000 paycheck for the same job, claiming it’s his “investment.” However, state records show that in the eleven years since he started drawing pension funds, Froehlich has extracted many times his contribution to the retirement fund.
Froehlich left the Elizabeth Police Department as a lieutenant earning $35,000 in 1976 and he started as a patrolman making about $5,000 20 years earlier. The sum of his contributions over his entire police career was a fraction of the $85,000 in pension benefits he collected last year alone.
However, Froehlich’s pension is not based on his work as a police officer, but on his $103,000 average salary as sheriff in the three years before he had changed the law. In addition to Whitman, DiFrancesco and Lesniak, a key role was played by a friend of Froehlich who helped steer the measure through committee, Sen. Wayne Bryant. Bryant was later convicted on a wide-ranging federal corruption indictment.
Bryant was called the “king of double dipping” by newspapers because he collected salaries from as many as four public jobs at once. Before his conviction sent him to prison for four years Bryant, his two brothers, his wife, his son and his sister-in-law, the family held ten public jobs that paid almost $700,000.
Observers say a number of Froehlich’s family members all have government jobs.
Former state Sen. Wayne Bryant, shown here with Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, played a key role in shepherding legislation through committee that allowed Froehilch to simultaneously collect a paycheck and pension at taxpayer expense. Bryant was convicted on charges of fraud and bribery because he accepted salaries for no-show jobs from the University of Medicine and Dentistry, Rutgers University-Camden, and Gloucester County Board of Social Service and using his position as Senate Budget chairman to funnel millions worth of state aid in exchange for those corrupt payments.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!