I received the following e-mail today from Mr. Williams:
Your e-mail below has been forwarded to all the PCFA Board Members.You will also find listed below my annual salary as reported on the W-2 forms for the following years:2008=$96,0002009=$97,9202010=$99,8792011=$106,9692012=$106,9692013= As of this date, the Authority has not set or discussed employee raises for 2013, therefore as of this date my salary for 2013 remains at $106,969.Jim
April 9, 2013
Robert Davenport, Chairman and members of the Board of the
Pollution Control Financing Authority of Warren County
P.O. Box 587
Oxford, NJ 07863
(via e-mail only to email@example.com)
Dear Chairman Davenport and Board members:
As you can see from the subject line of this e-mail, I am interested in learning the answer to what should be a fairly straightforward question: How much does James J. Williams get paid as the Authority’s Director of Operations?
A colleague of mine has been working on obtaining an answer since February. First, she submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the contract between Williams and the Authority. She received a February 22, 2013 letter from the Authority advising that the Authority has no such contract.
Next, she submitted an OPRA request for “any resolutions or writings that set forth the basis for [Williams’] compensation.” In response, she received twenty pages of records consisting of the Authority’s regular and executive meeting minutes. I have put those twenty pages on-line here for your ready reference and my analysis of them follows:
- The April 9, 2008 executive session minutes indicate that Williams was awarded a “salary approval of $96,000.” No regular meeting minutes regarding this salary were provided.
- Page 2 of the March 11, 2009 regular meeting minutes indicate that “2009 Salaries . . . will be discussed in Executive Session.” Page 3 of those minutes indicate that Williams’ salary was indeed discussed behind closed doors and that the following motion was unanimously approved in public: “Mr. Williams’ salary was motioned for approval by Mr. Accetturo, seconded by Mr. Yanoff.” Note, however, that the amount of his salary was not set forth in the motion.
- The only reference to salaries in the April 28, 2010 regular meeting minutes is Mr. Yanoff’s successful motion, on page 3, “to approve pay increases of 2% across the board.” This informs the public that Williams, among others, received in 2010 102% of what he had been paid in 2009. This information, of course, is of little utility since actual amount Williams was paid in 2009 remains undisclosed.
- Page 5 of the February 23, 2011 regular meeting minutes indicates that Williams received “what basically works out to be a 5% increase . . . for exemplary job performance.” Again, however, the base amount to which this percentage increase applies was not disclosed. The February 23, 2011 executive meeting minutes reveal nothing more than that “job titles and salaries” were the sole discussion item during that one hour and three minute closed door meeting. But, fortunately, DataUniverse shows that Williams’ 2011 salary was $106,968.
- Since they don’t mention Williams’ salary, it’s not clear why the June 27, 2012 regular meeting minutes were provided. The only reference to salaries is Mr. Mach’s motion, on page 3, to approve a 1.5% increase for all non-salaried employees. Since Williams is evidently on salary, this motion apparently does not apply to him.
It’s more than a bit distressing that the Authority doesn’t have records that plainly set out important facts such as the salaries of top officials. Needed are public meeting minutes that contain resolutions such as “Resolved, that the salary of Director of Operations James J. Williams shall be $120,000 for the 2013 calendar year.” Such would enable interested members of the public to easily obtain information about the Authority’s operations.
Do you agree with me that plainer, clearer resolutions would be in the public’s interest? If so, will you agree to discuss this e-mail with the Board at its April 22, 2013 meeting?
If you do elect to discuss this e-mail at the meeting, I would also ask that you discuss the Board’s apparent policy of discussing and deciding Mr. Williams’ salary during executive session. While I understand why the Board may want to privately and candidly discuss Mr. Williams’ performance outside of his presence, I note that both the April 9, 2008 and February 23, 2011 executive session minutes show that Mr. Williams attended these closed-door meetings. Thus, the only people who were kept in the dark about Mr. Williams’ salary were citizens and taxpayers–those for whom the Open Public Meetings Act was designed to inform.
A dose of transparency would, in my view, be especially good medicine for the PCFA given the controversy that has surrounded it lately. See, e.g. “Warren County Pollution Control Financing Authority investigation labeled ‘whitewash’ by whistleblower,” Express-Times, August 5, 2012 and “Warren County landfill looks to recoup $116,565 stolen by clerk,” Express-Times, March 28, 2012.
Although OPRA doesn’t require the Authority to create records that do not exist, would you extend the courtesy of creating and sending me a record that lists Mr. Williams’ annual compensation (i.e., the amount reported on his W-2 form) for each year beginning in 2008 and ending with what is projected for 2013?
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party’s
Open Government Advocacy Project
P.O. Box 5424
Somerset, NJ 08875