What a surprise? Atlantic City government employees are abusing their tax-payer-funded benefits.
The State Commission of Investigation issued a report entitled, The Beat Goes On: Waste and Abuse in Local Government Employee Compensation and Benefits. The Press of Atlantic City’s Michael Clark and Michael Miller report:
Atlantic City wasted almost $19 million in huge payments to municipal employees for accumulated sick and vacation time over a five-year period, the State Commission of Investigation said in a report released Tuesday.
It is sad that Atlantic City is again getting state-wide attention for all of the wrong reasons.
One noted public relations professional told me while I was on the Mayoral campaign trail, “Atlantic City has a one-way conversation. People say whatever negative things about Atlantic City that they want to and there is no one responsible with putting forth positive things about Atlantic City.” This point is profound.
The State Commission both criticized Atlantic City and proposed solutions:
Atlantic City enrolled in the state’s health plan this year with hopes of saving about $6 million, a figure frequently cited during Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s re-election campaign. However, a rise in rates appears to be pushing that savings amount down. Latest estimates put the savings at about $3 million.
But the commission projects Atlantic City could save almost $1.5 million if it implemented a 1.5 percent deduction in employee salaries for health care.
Atlantic City would be better off to follow some of Vineland’s municipal benefits procedures. Vineland was cited in the state report “as one of a few local government’s taking ‘direct action to rein in public employee benefits through tougher personnel policies and ordinances and more aggressive collective bargaining.’”
Atlantic City government has taken some recent measures to reform itself, yet Business Administrator Michael Scott’s words sadly encapsulate the molasses-slow speed that Atlantic City’s City Hall moves toward reform:
City Council President William “Speedy” Marsh said the city’s business administrator and the revenue and finance director ultimately must approve employees’ vacation days, sick days, personal days, etc. However, Marsh said it is unrealistic to think two people can keep track all of those days. He said the records should be moved through the Human Resources Office.
Scott said the administration is working to do just that through implementation of a new time clock system. However, that system has been installed for more than a year and many employees are still not enrolled.
The tenor of this story is ‘more of the same’. The State, The Press, and citizens can and should complain about the waste and abuse and propose solutions, yet – unfortunately – until reform-minded people obtain the power to reform Atlantic City government through gaining elected office, we are in for ‘more of the same’ waste and abuse in Atlantic City.