Institutional Nepotism

By Tina Renna | October 28, 2008

Star-Ledger reporter Jason Jett did a great job of exposing nepotism in Union Township and showing the connection to the county in an article published recently. Nepotism has been investigated by the Union County Watchdog Association and has been reported on this blog extensively as it is an institutional problem in county government.

In 2006 the UCWA investigated and found 542 Union County Employees have the same surnames as elected Democrat Officials. Admittedly, we can’t say for sure that they are all related, but we can say we have no way of knowing how many relatives with different surnames are on the payroll. When asked outright at a public meeting Freeholder Daniel Sullivan refused to state how many cousins he has on the county payroll. Please note, he didn’t say “none”.

I know, you know by now that THE APPOINTED COUNTY MANAGER IS SENATOR RAYMOND LESNIAK’S NEPHEW and with no prior experience and steady raises he has become the third highest paid county manager in the state in the few short years he’s been on our tax backs. Consider that Lesniak’s nephew’s name is Devanney, Devanney put his mother-in-law on the payroll and her last name is Bowen.

It doesn’t stop at the jobs that may or may not be needed or the relatives and friends that may or not be qualified for them. Nepotism has been rampant so long here in Union County that it is no longer good enough that connected people are given jobs. They want promotions too. In 2000, 29 employees made over $100,000, today there are 126.

Consider just recently a 38 year county employee who was making $98,000 retired and was replaced with the county manager’s personal trainer who joined the payroll at $110,000 to do the same job.

In December 2000, Worrall newspapers reported “The Union County Improvement Authority has a new executive director: Charlotte DeFilippo, chairwoman of the Union County Democratic Committee.” DeFilippo replaced Doug Placa, who was then Angie Devanney’s husband. (Angie is now married to the county manager.) Placa was the UCIA’s first executive director, appointed in February 1999 at an annual part-time salary of $40,000. The position was turned full-time when DeFilippo was appointed and the salary was set at 104,000. DeFilippo’s current salary is $143,409 up over $100,000 since she took over.

Union County has also been noted for padding pensions, Prosecutor Theodore Romankow and Senator Richard Codey’s brother just to name a famous few.

At the Dec. 20, 2007 freeholder meeting the county created 6 new Sheriff Captain spots in a cryptic resolution that they refused to explain to the public. It just so happened that Union County Democratic Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo’s daughter-in-law, who was a Sergeant, scored seventh highest on the Lieutenant’s exam. Lieutenants had to be promoted to make room for her promotion. This added $271,604 to the payroll annually.

On November 03, 2006 reporter Leslie Murray wrote for the Cranford Chronicle
A job applicant for a Union County post was asked about his political affiliation and encouraged to “get active” in the Democratic party to improve his chances of being hired.

Union County is now paying two superintendent salaries for one superintendent of weights and measures as a result of three law suits stemming from the promotion of former Union Township Mayor Jim Florio’s son. The son was promoted over 2 long-standing county employees even though they scored higher on a civil service exam.

Maria Todaro was hired by the county Division of Weights and Measurers in 1993. Michael Florio joined the county 5 years later in 1998. The division is responsible for ensuring that gasoline pumps, supermarket scales, store scanners and other measurement devices are accurate.

Todaro who scored higher than Florio on a civil service exam, has a math degree, is bilingual, formerly worked for a law school dean and was a former packing manager for Proctor and Gamble. She has been secretary to the New Jersey Weights and Measures Association since 1997 and was employee of the month. Todaro was able to prove that she was passed over for the county promotion because she is a registered Republican.

The only background information I was able to find on Michael Florio is that he is the son of former Union Township Mayor Florio.

In Maria Todaro’s first lawsuit a Union County Grand Jury, which found she was discriminated against, initially awarded Ms. Todaro $300,000. Ms. Todaro appealed the second part of the lawsuit, in which she argued she should be awarded the job because she was the most qualified candidate.

At the November 8, 2007 freeholder meeting (2 days after Election Day) the county agreed to settle Todaro’s second lawsuit for $200,000 and give her the Superintendents pay raise but they would not give Todaro the job.

Employee Joseph Freitas, who joined the county in 1987, 11 years prior to Mayor Florio’s son, also won $150,000 in a suit filed in Federal Court for being passed over for the same job. Freitas also scored higher than Florio on a civil service exam. The county’s legal fees were $25,000. Freitas is no longer on the county payroll.

Florio’s son is still the Superintendent, Todaro is the Assistant Superintendent they both have the same salary $62,113 – taxpayers are out approximately $675,000 so a mayor’s son could get a lousy $8,000 pay raise and all elected officials involved are still in office.

2007 Quote of the year:
“We were able to establish that Mike Florio had repeatedly bragged to several people that he was going to get the job because he was a Democrat, his father was a Democrat and that they had made connections to Sen. (Raymond) Lesniak,” stated Todaro’s attorney David Corrigan in a Star-Ledger article.