Action Taken After Overflow Crowd of Correction Employees Facing Layoffs Left Meeting
FEBRUARY 12, 2016: PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tonight's Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting was an ominous one for many of the officers and staff of the Mercer County Correction Center that packed the McDade Administration Building in Trenton.
For the freeholders, County Executive Brian Hughes and several other county officials, however, it was jackpot time.
After Hughes announced that many at the correction facility would lose their jobs as part of an exchange program with Hudson County, the freeholders assembled unanimously voted for 4% raises for themselves, Hughes and six other county officials.
"I'm here to object to these raises," said Mercer County Republican Committee chair Lisa Richford, who ran for the office of county executive last November. "When I ran for executive these raises weren't mentioned and two months after the election they happen figuring the voters will forget about them by next November."
With the raises — which were retroactive to 2015 — Hughes will now earn $164,090 while county administrator Andrew Mair will now receive $153,855 and Transportation and Infrastructure Director Aaron T. Watson will see his salary increase to $152,360.
At the same time Hughes announced that through this proposal the Mercer Correction Center's staff of over 300 people would be reduced to under 80. He said that qualified officers would be eligible to transfer to the Hudson County facility and said "scores of transfers" would be available but did not share an exact figure.
Richford pointed out that while the freeholders and officials were giving themselves and other county officials significant raises the county workers were making due with a fraction of that amount.
"Talking to the unions they've received less than 2% raises on a five-year contract," Richford said. "And from what I've been told non-contract employees have already received raises going back to 2015."
One Hamilton Township resident was particularly critical of the raises for the freeholders — who work in a part-time position.
With the new salary structure, Freeholder chair Ann M. Cannon will now receive $31,763 while the rest of the freeholders will receive $29,763.
"Full-time positions I don't like it but if they get a raise I get it," he said. "I don't feel freeholders should take raises when they're raising taxes."
In addition to Hughes, Mair, Watson, and the freeholders the other county officials receiving raises after the vote were Human Services Director Marygrace Billek ($139,077), County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello ($130,939), Sheriff John A. Kemler ($148,199) and Surrogate Diane Gerofsky ($130,939).
Hamilton resident Andrew Curcio also objected to the salary increases.
"I've lived in Hamilton for 10 years and was in Trenton for almost 30 years," he said. "I'm opposed to four percent raises. You work for the people and the people here they don't get to get raises."