YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino accused Executive Kathleen Donovan today of trying to “smear and mislead” with “grossly inaccurate and untrue” statements about salary costs in his department during her State of the County speech in Hackensack.
Donovan this afternoon said: “We saved $3.5 million when my administration re-negotiated the contract with our county police, while budgets, especially salaries, have continued to skyrocket in the Sheriff’s Department.
“The Sheriff’s Department recently negotiated, without allowing me or someone from my labor negotiating team to sit at the table, a contract of reckless spending that I can assure you I will not be signing,” she added. “This contract will cost us, with not one dollar in concessions, $10.5 million dollars over 4 years. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Everything about the statement is “blatantly false,” Saudino countered in a detailed statement sent to CLIFFVIEW PILOT ten minutes before 6:30 tonight. He pledged to provide genuine information and not “rhetoric and fantasy.”
“[W]hat the Executive failed to tell you is that a recent Office of Administrative Law Court decision confirmed that,” the sheriff said. “Even after her defeat in court, my office extended the courtesy of keeping the County Administrator aware of every phase of the negotiation process. The resulting contract is historically the lowest contract for this office in decades. The amortized cost of this contact is about 1.2% a year.
“Compared to the County Police contract negotiated by the Executive, our contract is far more cost efficient,” the sheriff added.
“An analysis of their deal reveals that their contract was frontloaded with a 9.86% raise and an automatic raise in the first year of the next contract,” Saudino said. “As a result of that contract, Bergen County Police Officers will continue to be the highest-paid county law enforcement agency, with officers making in excess of $30,000 a year total compensation more than their counterparts in the Sheriff’s Office.
“Additionally, out of the three county law enforcement agencies, the Bergen County Police Department is the only non-accredited agency.“
Saudino said his administration broke records this year, cutting expenses by $1.6 million from the previous administration.
“We then came in $250,000 below in overtime costs. That is $626,000 below the prior administration’s 2010 overtime expenditures,” the sheriff said. “This was done with less manpower than the prior administration and yet we are functioning more efficiently. This is the lowest overtime has been in 12 years. All of these numbers are verifiable.
“It is important to note that 64% of total county overtime cuts came from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office as cited in a recent media report. What was the impact of that on the overall 2011 County Budget? In 2011, the County Executive’s expenditures were only $75,000 less than the prior year’s County Budget expenditures in real dollars.”
Saudino urged taxpayers to ignore budget proposals and examine genuine expenditures.
“Had my Office not cut spending by over $1.6 million,” he said, “the County Executive’s budget would have risen significantly.”
His budget takes a major chunk of the budget pie, Saudino said, because of “constitutionally mandated obligations, core functions and operation of the Bergen County Jail.”
He said it is also “deceptive when the County Executive states that the Bergen County Police Department make up only 3.02% of the total appropriation in this year’s County Budget. She fails to inform you that the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Highway Safety are predominantly staffed by the Bergen County Police Department. Their budget is larger and more costly than the Executive would like you to believe.
“I strongly believe real consolidation has potential here in Bergen County,” Saudino said, adding that the county freeholder board “should give serious consideration” to the findings of a Guidepost Solutions study aimed at streamlining law enforcement services in a county that has its own police department, sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office.
However, he said, “this should not be a political football as we as elected officials need to lead by example.”
“The County Executive and I will continue to have policy disagreements and that is fine for good government,” Saudino said. “However, I will not stand for her continued personal attacks and blatant fabrications against myself and the hardworking men and women of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office.
“Please call my office to discuss anything I have mentioned or to verify any facts.”
THIS AFTERNOON’S STORY:
CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS THE SCOOP: Continuing her theme of “changing the culture of county government,” Bergen Executive Kathleen Donovan today announced the creation of a “Shared Services” initiative to explore ways of merging government services and reducing administrative staff — particularly in law enforcement and education — during her State of the County speech in Hackensack.
Donovan also promoted the ongoing move to consolidate emergency dispatch services at the county Communications Center in Mahwah. Two dozen municipalities participate “and we are confident that more and more towns will turn to us to provide that essential service,” she said.
And she staunchy defended the Bergen County Police Department, while taking aim at Sheriff Michael Saudino.