Dear Mercer County Freeholders

As emailed today to the Mercer County Board of Freeholders. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to reach out to them yourselves, if you have an opinion on this matter. Email addresses are below. – KM

Good Afternoon, Freeholders –

In connection with today’s media reports about the 2015 Salary Ordinance which your body passed on First Reading last week, I write to express qualified opposition.

I believe that those who enter public service must receive proper compensation, appropriate to their positions and duties, equitably distributed to all workers in comparable pay grades and job classes, and subject to periodic review and increase. No one entering public service should do so expecting to become financially distressed by that service. It should be possible for fulltime workers, including elected officials, to earn a respectable livelihood in the service of the public interest. In the absence of the ability to earn a living, government service – for elected officials as well as civil service employees – will become the exclusive province of those with extraordinary financial resources. Individuals such as these may not need their public salary, but such individuals are not typical of those they represent. I would not be confident in their ability to understand the problems that all face, and to provide the fair solutions we seek from government.

I understand the rationale and objective of this salary ordinance. I get it. I do not agree with how this has been rolled out.

News stories today report that 4% increases for all of the County’s elected officials and some senior Employees are proposed to be retroactive to the beginning of 2015. To my recollection, the matter of such an increase was never brought up as a prospective action during the entire year of 2015. The November 2015 General Election featured races for County Executive, County Clerk, and three Freeholder seats. I believe this represented a perfect opportunity to state the intention to adjust salaries in the new year. The failure to do so among the various legislative and executive candidates in my opinion is unfortunate, and brings this current effort into question.Voters deserve an opportunity to weigh in on a matter such as this, as a check and balance against the ability of public officials to grant themselves unilateral retroactive raises. The manner in which this is being discussed and approved suggests an effort to accomplish this early enough in the new legislative term so that voters may forget about it by the time the next election rolls around.

In this matter, I would suggest an example set by the Founders should apply here. The 27th Amendment to the US Constitution, proposed in 1789 and not ratified until 1992 (demonstrating how unpopular this must have been for elected officials during the entire lifespan of the Republic!) states in its entirety, “No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

This is the way in which raises for elected officials should be implemented: Propose and pass raises as you deem prudent. But ensure that the public has an indirect role in their approval, by not implementing them until after the next County election.

If, upon standing for re-election, voters judge the raise to be fair (along with other issues, certainly), then you may be likely to be re-elected. But if the raises are deemed to be inappropriate (along with the other issues), then the voters’ judgment may tend in the other direction.

In either outcome, the public at least has an indirect, but definitive choice in the matter. A choice which your current effort denies the electorate.

Freeholders, I respectfully request you to please reconsider your position on the matter of raises for yourselves as well as your elected Mercer County colleagues. Separate raises for elected officials from those of fulltime civil service or appointed employees. Designate any raises for yourselves to take effect only after an intervening General Election at which a majority of County offices are up for election.

Thank you.

Kevin Moriarty

Sent to:

Samuel T. Frisby –

Anthony P. Carabelli –

Ann M. Cannon –

John A. Cimino –

Pasquale “Pat” Colavita –

Andrew Koontz –

Lucylle R.S. Walter –

1 comment to Dear Mercer County Freeholders

  • ed.w

    I think that the “raises” should be tied to the raises given to seniors which is reflected by the “cost of living” increase and not some artificial metric that they chose.

    Since the “raises” that the seniors received for 2016 was a whopping 0% that should be more than sufficient for our do nothing freeholders.