40 New Jersey part-time ‘temps’ collect nearly $6M a year


GREAT WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: Catherine Coyle is a part-time temp worker who gets big-time pay from New Jersey

By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog

With an income exceeding $225,000 last year, Cathy Coyle is the most expensive part-time temp in New Jersey state government.

The Department of Education paid Coyle $151,862 last year as a “special services” employee. The retired Jersey City school executive also collects a $73,765 annual pension from the state.

Coyle is not alone. The state agency’s Special Services Unit Q has become a haven for double-dippers who game the pension system with the knowledge of the Christie Administration.

A New Jersey Watchdog investigation found:

  • Two-thirds of the top 60 Unit Q special services workers collect state pensions.
  • Those 40 employees collected roughly $5.9 million last year — nearly $2.9 million in state pay, plus almost $3 million from retirement checks.
  • Thirty-eight of the double-dippers have six-figure incomes. Five receive more than $200,000 a year.

To all but insiders, Unit Q is a mystery. It is not on NJDOE’s organization chart, and the special services job title is nowhere to be found on the state Civil Service Commission web site. While all of the temps have the same title on the state payroll, they work in a variety of roles that don’t necessarily involve special education.

“Temporary employment services employees are paid by the day, paid only for the days they work and receive no benefits,” NJDOE spokesman Michael Yarple said in an email to New Jersey Watchdog. “(They) are part-time. Some are retirees, some are not.”

What they do get is the ability to collect big state paychecks while circumventing rules intended to protect pension funds from being drained by retired officials who are still employed. The unit sails under the public’s radar, so workers have been double-dipping without much notice.

Typically, an educator’s retirement benefits are supposed to be suspended if the retiree returns to work in a school-related job. But pension rules also give authorities wide discretion in deciding which employees are temporary, as well as power to waive other restrictions.

Coyle, for example, is executive director of NJDOE’s Regional Achievement Center in Essex and Hudson counties. While she may be deemed temporary, Frank Grossman – the RAC executive director in a neighboring region – is considered a permanent employee. Grossman receives a $125,000 salary. He is not retired and does not collect a state pension.

In addition to Coyle, there are four other retired Unit Q workers who double-dipped more than $200,000 in 2013. They are:

The ranks of top Unit Q workers also include five NJDOE retirees back on the departmental payroll as special services employees.

Retired educators are not the only pensioners in Unit Q. Five State Police retirees and two retired Trenton city cops also have returned to the public trough to conduct internal investigations.

“This is a more cost-effective approach than having to hire and train investigators and also pay for their benefits,” Yaple said.

Twenty-eight of the top 40 Unit Q double-dippers — 70 percent — receive their retirement checks from the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund, the state retirement plan that faces the biggest deficit.

TPAF has an unfunded liability of $23 billion, according to state Treasury’s latest figures. That represents nearly half of the shortfall for all state pension funds, now totaling $51 billion.

Yaple noted other state agencies have their own Unit Q temps. “It’s not just unique to NJDOE,” he said.

But it’s the Department of Education part-timers who collect the biggest paychecks. All nine of the state’s Unit Q temps paid in excess of $100,000 last year were employed by NJDOE, including two who don’t receive pensions.

Here is New Jersey Watchdog’s list of the 40 NJDOE Unit Q double-dippers who received more than $30,000 in pay plus retirement checks in 2013. It was compiled from the Treasury’s payroll and pension databases:

COYLE, CATHERINE V $151,862 $73,765 $225,627 Jersey City PS
BORKES, FRANCES $124,000 $58,383 $182,383 Middlesex Co Vocational
KARSEN, RONALD K $118,500 $97,916 $216,416 Newark PS
LITTLEJOHN, S MICHAEL $116,700 $84,835 $201,535 Jersey City PS
MCDOWELL, JOSEPHINE $110,100 $91,517 $201,617 Newark PS
STEPURA, RICHARD M $105,294 $79,708 $185,002 Northfield BOE
DOWD, THOMAS $101,660 $87,357 $189,017 Bloomfield Twp BOE
SERAFINO, KATHLEEN C $99,360 $113,743 $213,103 Nutley BOE
BANKS, SPRING J $95,750 $64,299 $160,049 Essex Co Vocational
OKUM, ILIANA $95,400 $58,637 $154,037 Pemberton Twp BOE
VOORHEES, PATRICIA J $94,250 $40,469 $134,719 State Dept of Education
RESTIVO, JOANNE M $94,224 $35,461 $129,685 Office of Administrative Law
MCMAHON, THOMAS C $87,450 $78,257 $165,707 West Essex Regional
VOLK, CELIA A $81,673 $52,960 $134,633 State Dept of Education
KATZMAR, LEWIS P $80,045 $47,052 $127,097 Upper Deerfield Twp BOE
DUNN, KAREN M $78,275 $72,571 $150,846 Union Twp BOE
ALTERSITZ, AVE $73,535 $69,096 $142,631 Kingsway Regional
RAMOS, JOSEPH $71,820 $100,440 $172,260 Guttenberg Boro BOE
POPE, PATRICIA A $67,025 $79,279 $146,304 Hoboken BOE
HENDRICK, RENA G $65,793 $61,591 $127,384 West New York BOE
WINKLER, PAUL B $56,866 $47,368 $104,234 Lower Camden Regional
VESPUCCI, RICHARD J $56,550 $47,136 $103,686 State Dept of Education
MADISON, GUY M $56,350 $85,965 $142,315 State Police
DILORENZO, JOHN $55,098 $83,774 $138,872 State Police
SCARINGELLI, JAMES $54,126 $92,294 $146,420 Trenton City
HACKETT, KEITH $53,600 $82,106 $135,706 State Police
ZARRA, JOSEPH S $53,360 $92,849 $146,209 Nutley BOE
GALE, JEFFREY G $53,159 $89,577 $142,736 State Police
VERNOTICA, GERALD J $53,130 $100,795 $153,925 Washington Twp BOE
STEWART, SAMUEL B $52,900 $76,907 $129,807 South Brunswick BOE
KANZ, JAMES P $51,220 $81,610 $132,830 State Police
LUCHERINI, RICHARD $50,935 $76,098 $127,033 Trenton City
LAZUR, MICHAEL A $47,821 $79,360 $127,181 State Police
FROHNAPFEL, DENNIS R $44,800 $122,499 $167,299 Garfield BOE
TANNER, MARYJANE $44,450 $65,050 $109,500 State Dept of Education
MCFADDEN, VINCENT $43,350 $99,107 $142,457 Hudson County Tech
SARGENTI, JOANNE C $37,738 $15,344 $53,082 State Dept of Education
MAKUS, JEANETTE R $34,000 $70,079 $104,079 Passaic Co Manchester Reg
DENI, KRISTINE R $32,313 $96,344 $128,657 Lawrence Twp BOE
COLLINS, THOMAS R $30,129 $37,872 $68,001 State Dept of Education
2013 TOTALS $2,874,611 $2,989,470 $5,864,081

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