After decades of flying under the radar, Brigantine has finally been audited by the New Jersey State Comptroller. That’s according to a scathing, but much needed report from The Press of Atlantic City.
Brigantine lacks adequate policies and procedures when it comes to the oversight of sick time, overtime, comp time and nepotism. That being said, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
BrigantineNOW: Highlighting Brigantine City Hall corruption since 2011. Being hated by Phil Guenther is a badge of honor for us.
Non-voting, 2nd homeowners (so-called shoobies) foot most of the bill for Brigantine’s financial foolery.
Brigantine spent $2.4 million on health benefits in 2021. The NJ Comptroller audit discovered Brigantine spending more than necessary by using a private insurer, recommended by a financially motivated insurance broker.
The NJ State investigation into Brigantine’s operations estimates broker fees averaged $62,000 each year from 2019 through 2021.
Note: Insurance brokers don’t get commission when Brigantine or other local government participates in a NJ state health plan. Brokers incentivized to favor more expensive plans for Brigantine. Read more at NJ101.com:
City of Brigantine overpaid $191,000 by not participating in State Health Benefits Program.
Brigantine also said no to joining county wide municipal court system which would have saved taxpayers over $100,000 per year.
The use of insurance brokers by Brigantine is risky. “What’s good for the broker may not be good for the taxpayers.”
Brigantine taxpayers paid $64,000 for health benefit waivers to any public employee receiving coverage through a spouse or family member employed by the City of Brigantine. Employees who waive coverage can receive up to $5,000.
Brigantine Often Accused of Nepotism, Like Most Small Towns.
Brigantine Ignores Their Own Anti-Nepotism policy.
The NJ State Audit Report shows Brigantine Superintendent of Public Works, John Doring, supervises his brother and approves his overtime pay. This is a clear violation of nepotism laws and could cost Doring his job.
This type of employee crime is not new in Brigantine. Years ago, Brigantine Fire Department captains would sign off on each others overtime. See Tiger Platt Fiasco. Then Mayor, Phil Guenther, did little to stop the practice and gave Platt and others a pass. Former Brigantine Mayor Phil Guenther, is currently the Superintendent of ACIT Vocational High School.
Brigantine Underfunded Lifeguard Pension System.
How embarrassing for Brigantine Mayor, Vince Sera, an ex-lifeguard.
The Brigantine Lifeguard pension plan is not properly funded. $4.5 million in the hole. The city’s 2021 contribution was $20,000 but will need to increase to $358,000 a year for the next 19 years to close the gap. Brigantine Mayor Vince Sera is a former lifeguard not well-liked by current lifeguards. Tax hikes are on the way.
New Jersey law says coastal cities must provide pension plans to lifeguards.
Non-voting, Brigantine 2nd homeowners will pay most of that bill.
Sweet Deal for Brigantine CFO, Courtesy of Non-Voting 2nd Homeowners.
Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO) contract allows for payment of up to one calendar year, or 2,080 hours, of accumulated sick leave at retirement and allows carryover of 50 vacation days per year.
Brigantine hired CFO Roxanne Tosto in 2015. She is subject to 2010 state law that limits payments for sick leave and carryover of vacation leave.
Brigantine CFO, Roxanne Tosto, was given a personal contract that makes her eligible for 2,080 hours of unused sick time at retirement even though law caps the payout at $15,000.
City records also show that Brigantine CFO Roxanne Tosto earned 30 vacation days in 2021 and carried 50 unused vacation days into 2022.
The carryover of 50 days is 20 days more than allowed by the 2010 law. This exposes taxpayers to costly leave benefit payments.
Read BrigantineNOW for corruption and financial mismanagement coverage going back to 2011.
EXAMPLE FINDING: Brigantine did not obtain the required documentation for retiring employees using sick leave, resulting in the undocumented and potentially wasteful use of 165 sick days valued at $57,000.
Brigantine did not accurately calculate the earned leave time of retirees in accordance with employment contracts and CBAs, resulting in $10,900 of improper payments.
Mollye O’Neill is Director of Personnel for Brigantine.
Nine employees used 469 sick days leading up to their retirement. Testing found that 165, or 35 percent, of the used sick days were unsupported and valued at $57,000.
Example: one employee used 97 of 127 sick days without submitting a doctor’s note. These 97 unsupported sick days were valued at $25,000. We note that none of these employees were subject to the caps established by the 2010 law.
Brigantine has been notorious for it’s use of ‘longevity pay’.
Sick leave not documented properly. $57,000 in misused tax dollars. Example: A Brigantine public employee didn’t have doctor notes for majority of 127 sick days used leading up to their retirement. Brigantine made $10,900 in improper payments by not accurately calculating earned leave time of Brigantine retirees.
Brigantine’s population still declining. Less than 800 full time residents now, yet municipal workforce remains oversized at 137 full-time employees and 151 part-time workers.
Brigantine’s municipal budget is $33 million. Brigantine property tax levy is $22 million. When you add county and school taxes, the total number is $58 million. Non-voting, 2nd homeowners in Brigantine handle most of that tax liability.
Watch for larger tax increases in Brigantine, combined with potential reduction of some city services.
City Manager Jim Bennett (former Police Chief) defended the financial mismanagement. Brigantine takes its commitment to its residents and employees very seriously, and works to act in their best interests.