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Donovan demands utility commissioners resign, vetoes management raises and benefits

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT BROKE THE STORY: County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan today vetoed pay raises for management employees at the Northwest Bergen Utilities Authority, as well as cash stipends and health benefits for its commissioners — then demanded they all quit.

The NWBCUA was the last agency in the county to provide stipends for commissioners along with health benefits at the expense of taxpayers, said Donovan, who earlier this year abolished stipends to the county Construction Board of Appeals.

In her veto message to NWBCUA Chair William Dator, Donovan said, “The Authority has provided for itself raises which will cost the taxpayers a total of $89,000 between increased salary and the fringe costs associated with such raises.”

The moves were part of a $15.6 million 2012 budget adopted by the authority’s nine commissioners on Tuesday — up 4.65 percent from this year.

“As I have advised you in previous veto messages, I will not condone nor permit this to occur during these difficult economic times.  I have advised fixed annual employees of the County that they will not receive raises in fiscal 2012; neither shall the fixed annual employees of your authority.

“Nowhere in the minutes of the meeting is there mention of the Commissioners abolishing the practice of providing for themselves a stipend for their service, which also permits them to receive health benefits at taxpayer expense,” she added, explaining why she vetoed the authority’s minutes — thus eliminating the benefits.

Then comes the bombshell: “In view of the Commissioners continued failure to affirmatively act and refuse to accept their stipends, I am compelled to ask for and expect their resignations.”

Donovan used the same veto power earlier this year to block appointments the utility made without monthly retainers or annual maximum appropriations for the services.

The county executive said she would continue to exercise her veto when appropriate.

“I made a promise to the people of Bergen County and I intend to keep that promise,” she said, adding that her office “will continue to look at every expenditure and make necessary cuts to bring further savings.”

As an independent agency, the NBCUA has the authority to enter into service agreements, to set rates and fees for services and to sell bonds. It serves roughly 75,000 customers in 10 municipalities, which convey their sewage to the authority’s interceptor/pumping station plant in Waldwick (photo above, right).

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