LINDEN — Following up on his call for a $95,000 cap on municipal salaries at a Mt. Moriah Church candidates forum, Councilman Derek Armstead, 47, noted that more than 100 municipal employees are currently paid in excess of $100,000.
When discussion got around to the issue, an audience member contended that none of those high-wage city employees are black or Hispanic.
“That is not true,” replied Council President Robert Bunk, 77. “One of them is black; we have Lt. Jonathan Parham.” Payroll records showed that Parham moved into the $100,000 Club last year when his salary increased to $101,028.
Still Armstead contended that with more than 100 of the city’s 578 employees earned more than double the income of the average family, spending has a crushing impact on the middle-class.
“They are all doing a wonderful job,” said Bunk, who also defended having five family members on the city payroll. The top 25 employees and their salaries are listed at the end of this story
When Bunk said, “New Jersey Monthly magazine rated Linden the third city from the bottom in Union County,” dark horse challenger John S. Fine noted that he has been Council President, the most powerful elected official under the city’s charter, for more than a decade.
“The past four years of stagnant progress in the city is unacceptable,” said Fine. “No results should mean no re-election.”
“We need to curb overzealous spending and find the large amounts of waste, eliminate it, and the conditions causing it,” said Fine. “We need to find cheaper ways of doing things and bring in more revenue to relieve the tax burden on our hard working citizens.”
Armstead agreed, saying that excessive salaries create an unsustainable pension cost, particularly where some workers collect multiple paychecks.
Among the list of top paid employees, two have additional public jobs. City Clerk Joseph Bodek’s $136,328 salary is raised to $149,902 with pay from the Union County Utilities Authority. Treasurer Alexis Zack’s city salary of $129,748 rises to $144,048, due to an extra stipend received from the public school district.
Bunk is running on the regular political organization column with Councilman Michele Yakaimitis for council president and Councilman Gene Davis, who is the target of a criminal probe surrounding his alleged attempt to bribe his opponent.
Armstead is running on Column B with Democrats for Change ticket with Council President candidate James Moore, Councilman Jack Sheehy and Fifth Ward challenger Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling. Third Ward Democrat for Change Council candidate Peter Brown is up against Juan Alvarez of the regular political organization.
The dozen top salaried Linden city employees are Michael Boyle $147,156, Joseph Rizzo $146,636, Alexis Zack $144,048, John Mesler $143,600, Salvato Bivona $137,860, Joseph Bodek $149,902, Thomas Callahan $134,920, James Schulhafer $133,428, Alfred MacDonald $133,408, George Vircik $131,456, Nucenzio Pirozzoli $131,180, and Christopher Aslin $130,580.
They are followed by Daniel Gurrera $127,962, Michael Cybulski $127,816, John Traub $127,620, Joseph Dooley $127,128, Nancy Koblis $125,096, Louis Dileo $122,164, James Sarnicki $115,764, Jeffrey Vitrano $115,760, Walter Fekete $113,128, Keith Aslin $112,847, George Senkus $112,760, Raymond Lesniak $112,312, and Eugene Braun $112,160.
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