Scutari legislation could cost Mayor Ras Baraka $50,000

Mayor Ras Baraka was recently awarded a $50,000 pay raise by Newark’s council that’s retroactive to July 1, 2018, but he could lose that money if Gov. Phil Murphy signs legislation proposed by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

Senator Nick Scutari may have inadvertantly picked a fight with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka

Scutari proposed the measure to retaliate against Linden Mayor Derek Armstead, who fired Scutari from a part time $85,000 job around the same time Linden council members voted to boost his pay to $100,000, which is still far less than the $140,000 salary that went to former Mayor John Gregorio.

Baraka’s 38 percent pay hike is retroactive to July 1, 2018. The Newark City Council also set higher salary ranges for 24 positions like departmental directors, aides in the mayor’s office and aides to members of the governing body.

City officials say the Newark job holders have not seen pay increases in 12 years.

Armstead is paid $40,000 less than Gregorio earned while he was Linden mayor, but former Mayor Richard Gerbounka had the salary set lower because he was also collecting a pension as a retired police captain.

Gerbounka lowered the mayoral position’s salary to $70,000 but he also collected another $70,799 from the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.

Two years ago, Armstead resigned from the $60,000 job he held for 18 years as a programmer for Union County’s Bureau of Information Technology, so he could devote full time to being Linden’s mayor.

While Armstead’s compensation is not out of line for an official managing a $100 million budget like Linden’s, Scutari used the opportunity to slam his political rival, despite the fact that the party boss received retroactive salary increases before he was fired as prosecutor.

“Elected officials should not have the capability to give themselves retroactive salary increases,” Scutari said in a news release. “As elected officials in the legislature we are prohibited from giving ourselves retroactive raises and bonuses.”

“Your bonus is the pride of a job well done and serving your constituents and the people of New Jersey,” Scutari said. “No elected official should be able to collect back pay upon salary increases; this legislation extends this basic standard to all elected offices in the state.”

In January, Armstead dumped Scutari as city prosecutor, a position the state senator, city Democratic chairman and county Democratic chairman, had held for 15 years.

Scutari is also seeking to legalize marijuana, but Baraka’s support is key to getting that done so the conflict over government salaries may take a backseat to the greater political priority.

By crafting legislation a certain way, when the state creates a billion dollar canibas industry, Scutari’s friends could receive a controlling interest.

Ironically, Scutari was also a sponsor of a law that increases the annual salary of Governor’s cabinet officers, judges, county prosecutors, and certain other public employees.

Those pay hikes cost taxpayers about $5.8 million in 2018, plus another $10.7 million in 2019 and $15.6 million in 2020, distributing hundreds of salaries that pay $175,000 to $216,795 per year.

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