With Corey Booker all set up in his new digs down on Capitol Hill, the rodeo hogtie that is the Newark mayoral race to replace him has officially begun. The first thing on State Attorney General and candidate Shavar Jeffries’ docket: smear Booker’s administration with the results of an audit of Newark’s books in an interview with Chasing New Jersey:
“I mean obviously we don’t have money to waste as a city. Ya know we’re at a time of crisis right now. To pay dead people, to pay people who aren’t on the payroll is obviously not the kind of city we need to be,” Jeffries said.
That’s right. Newark kept three dead employees on the payroll “improperly”, according to audit documents. But the story isn’t quite as shocking and awful as Jeffries is implying it to be.
In all, $37,886 in checks went out to the three, including payments to one individual who died in May 2009 but continued to receive payments on his pension until February 2012.
But here’s the thing: the checks were never cashed, and the city has stopped payment on all outstanding checks. Basically, it was a small oversight that the city did its due diligence in correcting.
And the audit itself lays out goals for cleaning up the city’s books. “Our audit of the City of Newark sets forth a blueprint for future savings through recommendations that address issues such as employee compensation expenses and a disproportionately large City Council budget.” said State Comptroller Matthew Boxer in a statement to the Village Voice.
Painting a picture of the Booker administration as rife with financial improprieties using what is a routine problem with city finances is pretty weak sauce; If Jeffries, or Chasing New Jersey for that matter, really wanted to go after Booker’s legacy, he might have questioned the $11,500 the City Council spent on photography. Or the $545,000 in appropriations for expenses to the mayor’s office and to the City Council.
But the race is on, and if there’s anything a municipal election needs, it’s grandstanding by its obscure candidates trying to be less obscure.
On the next page is the full document of what the State Comptroller’s office found in its audit.