When she retired last month after 34 years, Janet Passante literally cashed in on a deal that requires the town to pay her $10,000 a month for the next two-and-a-half years — or more than enough to put two more cops on the street, not to mention a few more teachers in the classroom.
Meanwhile, public workers with families are being laid off, forced into a job market that holds little promise at the moment.
Passante, on the other hand, gets to enjoy the fruits of being one of the many Employees of the Century throughout New Jersey, many of whom are taking their final bows now that Gov. Christopher Christie has begun swinging the budget ax.
In short, Passante never took a sick day, or vacation time, at least according to the records that she kept. Under the law, she’s allowed to collect (sit down for this) $306,324.30 in unused sick and vacation and compensation time.
By all accounts, Janet Passante was a loyal and dedicated public servant for West New Mayors Anthony DeFino and Albio Sires, before becoming Mayor Sal Vega’s chief of staff, in charge of coordinating public affairs, trips to Atlantic City and all kinds of other fun town events.
As a result, Passante was making nearly $120,000 a year when she rode off into the sunset. Her payouts are based on that final salary — and not on what she was making in Year 1, much less Year 33.
The state Legislature adopted a law that Christie signed in March capping unused sick and vacation payouts for new state workers at $15,000. To avoid the cost of a flood of lawsuits, Passante and others were grandfathered in.
So there’s been a lot of “Our hands are tied” reactions, from Alpine to Capt May.
You can’t blame Passante. She did her job, then cashed in 34-and-a-half weeks of unused vacation time, 300.5 sick days and 1,366 hours of comp time.
Beginning the middle of July, she’ll find a check in her mailbox each month for $10,201.81 a month without interest. Once the year 2012 rolls around, she’s going to have to rough it.
Or is she?
Public workers receive pensions far more generous and risk-free than a private-sector employee with a matching 401k.
Which only proves: There sure is power in a union, an organization first created to protect the financially-squeezed middle and working classes — the very same people who choose to give up their vacations and sick days (just like Passante) but out of fear of losing their livelihoods.
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