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Newark Audit Finds ‘Questionable Spending’ [AUDIO]

Newark is being called out by the state for instances of questionable spending in its payroll, timekeeping, and operating practices.

Downtown Newark
Downtown Newark (Rutgers)

An audit by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) makes a series of recommendations for the city to address employee compensation and a disproportionally large City Council and Clerk budget.

The report, which looked back as far as 2010, found Newark appropriated $10 million towards its clerk and council offices in 2012.

“Newark spent six times more than Jersey City did on those offices, eight times more than the city of Paterson did, and more than 16 times than the city of Elizabeth,” said New Jersey State Comptroller Matthew Boxer.

Boxer said there was millions given away in non-salary supplemental compensation, roughly $13 million since 2010.

“This would be things like clothing allowance, hazard duty pay, shift differential pay, stress pay, and detective pay,” Boxer said.

He added the city overpaid various employees by approximately $216,000 in such supplemental pay through calculation errors and providing the service to positions who didn’t qualify for them.

Lump sum payments to police and fire retirees cashing out unused sick time was also found in the audit. Specifically, one employee, who retired in October 2010, accrued enough sick time to stay on payroll until May 2012. The city was also unable to provide supporting documentation for the time accrued of three of its five largest payouts, according to the report.

Over a half-million dollars was spent from 2010 to 2012 on “in lieu of expense” payments as well, which were not documented.

“The city, instead of reimbursing for specific expensive officials, gives a flat sum for the officials to spend,” Boxer explained.

Other questionable expenses by the Council and Clerk’s office included payments totaling $11,500 for photography services for Council members, $3,900 for hotel charges for a softball team visiting the city to compete in a tournament; and $2,875 for holiday decorations in the Council chambers.

Newark will have 90 days to file a corrective action plan with the state, which Boxer said will be followed up by the OSC to make sure they are implemented.

“This city can be saving tax dollars and we set forth a blue print of recommendations on how the city can improve those practices.”

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