Planet Princeton

List of NJ Public Officials Receiving 100K-Plus Pensions Doubled Over Last Five Years

The number of retired New Jersey public officials who collect more than $100,000 a year from the state pension system has more than doubled in the past five years, according to an NJ Spotlight analysis of state data.

At the end of 2015, 2,296 retirees were collecting six-figure pensions from state pension plans, a 131 percent increase above 2010, when 992 retirees were collecting pensions above $100,000.

Ten former public employees in Princeton are on the list.

The $100K Club is loaded with retired school executives, judges police, and fire officials. Nearly half the people on the list belong to the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System. Of those, 93 percent took advantage of a special retirement provision in state pension law that allows law-enforcement officers – but not other public employees – to collect full benefits after 25 years of service, regardless of age.

A loophole in the law also lets some employees collect pensions while working a new job. Sixteen of the county sheriffs in the state, including Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler, pocket six-figure salaries while also collecting special pensions as retired police officers.

In Princeton, four retired police officers, two former business administrators, and four retired school administrators are part of the 100K Club.

Former Princeton Police Chief David Dudeck receives a pension of $128,693 annually. Princeton officials pressured him to retire in 2013 after the police union filed a complaint about him. Rather than conducting an investigation and hearing, the Princeton governing body struck a deal with the police union. The union promised not to sue the town if Dudeck retired. Dudeck took the deal, and shortly thereafter six of the police officers filed a suit against the town. That lawsuit is still being settled.

Former Princeton Township Police Chief Robert Buchanan, who retired abruptly the year before the two Princetons consolidated, receives a pension of $118,154 annually. Former Princeton Township police Chief Anthony Gaylord receives a pension of $116,591. Former Princeton Police Lt. Sharon Papp, who retired last year, receives a pension of $115,937.

James Pascale, the Princeton Township administrator who retired abruptly around the same time as Buchanan the year before consolidation, receives an annual pension of $114,992. Pascale recently served as the business administrator in South Palm Beach, Fla. Bob Bruschi, the Princeton administrator who retired last year, receives a $103,485 annual pension.

Former Princeton Superintendent of Schools Judith Wilson is paid an annual pension of $139,227. Former John Witherspoon Middle School Principal Bill Johnson receives $114,822. Barbara Obreza receives 111,898 and Cherry Sprague is paid $102,193.

100K Pension Club Members in neighboring municipalities and Mercer County government:

George Meyer, Hopewell Township, $100,660
Chiaradia Ida, Hopewell Valley Regional Schools, $101,740
Mark Boyd, Lawrence Township, $101,709
Bill Guhl, Lawrence Township, $102,434
Daniel Posluszny, Lawrence Township, $111,826
Joseph Prettyman, Lawrence Township, $100,699
Barbara Beers, Lawrence Schools, $101,849
Philip Meara, Lawrence Schools, $123,794
Stuart Schnur, Montgomery Schools, $103,647
Thomas Venanzi, Montgomery Schools, $113,546
Troy Bell, Plainsboro Township, $101,633
Richard Furda, Plainsboro Township, $100,761
Arthur Downs, WW-P Regional Schools, $105,735
Victoria Kniewel, WW-P Regional Schools, $122,028
Denise Mengani, WW-P Regional Schools, $111,770
Michael Zapicchi, WW-P Regional Schools, $115,992
Martin Levandowski, Mercer County, $102,493
Albert Paglione, Mercer County, $100,474
Charles Waldron, Mercer County, $103,474
Carl Kreger, Mercer County Special Services Schools, $103,037
Patricia Sodano, Mercer County Special Services Schools, $114,368

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Robert Dana

    The 70% statistic is suspect. It’s an aggregate number basically derived by dividing gross salaries/wages paid to women divided by the number of working women. And similarly for me. Then compare. On its face, most honest, critical thinking people would see a problem with that.

    When more nuanced studies are made – comparing job to job, the discrepancy is closer to 95%. Still needs to improve mind you, but the 70 percent number is nothing more than propaganda.

    It’s hard to debate things when we aren’t dealing with basic, accurate facts. All camps with ‘axes to grind’ do this. And with the internet, social media, and the 24/7 news cycle, such assertions become entrenched as “truths”.

  • John Heilner

    Krystal, thank you for once again for shining light on a subject that continually slips off residents’ and government officials’ radar screens. There is much to debate in the figures and circumstances you present. Should a police officer who serves the community for 35-40 years (not just 25 years) receive a pension of $100-120K, and does not take a full time job elsewhere? Absolutely. Should a Township Administrator who “retired abruptly” receive a pension of $115,000 and at the same time pull down a good salary as the administrator of South Palm Beach, FL? I don’t think so.

    Your article points out that there are a number of ways to help reign in tax increases. Most of them concern NJ Statewide union contracts. Some of them can be done at the local level here in Princeton going forward

  • FreshAir

    Robert, One point of the article is that a female is highest pensioned employee in our region. This is incredibly refreshing to see, in a time when working women are paid 70 cents for every dollar men are paid. And, so our own smiling Judy Wilson is pictured with the article’s title. Since progress in social equality for equal pay has been way too slow, we should all be feeling warm & fuzzy that our town bucks that trend. Another point well made by this article is the benevolence that exists in those we elect to manage Princeton’s public purse, for paying higher pensions than all neighboring municipalities across the board. It seems we taxpayers so honor our municipal employees in every way, while they are working here and when they retire, that every Princeton resident should be proud of our remarkable commitment and tribute to public service. It is this kind of noblesse oblige, placed on the backs of every taxpayer, that is quintessentially Princeton. Like wearing designer shoes, every resident should feel confident wherever we go that we are oh-so special. I really appreciate any article that presents clear facts about Princeton, and think Krystal is a great journalist for delivering truth.

  • Watch your Step

    Hmmm…You’ve stated in the past that you do not allow people to use multiple names /in one thread/ in order to create the appearance of greater support for a particular point of view, not that you do not allow someone to make up a new name for each thread. I suspect I may be the person you’re referring to, and I find it curious that I was banned only after criticizing the site itself. There were no personal attacks involved and you are certainly free to correct any perceived factual inaccuracies.

  • krystalknapp

    We leave plenty of comments that are critical of the site or my reporting up, including anonymous ones. We don’t allow people to comment using multiple names — we banned a reader from commenting last week who had used more than 40 different handles — and we don’t allow personal attacks on our site, especially when they contain factual inaccuracies.

  • Watch your Step

    Be careful, Robert. If you are at all critical of Krystal, she is apt to ban you from commenting on the site.

  • Robert Dana

    You make a valid point if you are one to celebrate when people do what they are supposed to do.

    However, other than list peoples’ names and annual pension amounts, the article does little to expound upon the budget/economic ramifications. Oh. I forgot. It also references ‘double dipping.’ (I think in a negative way.)

    The real story here is whether we can afford this going forward especially when we have a Governor who has indicated that he may not honor commitments of this sort.

    All in all, this piece is something a little better than those headlines I read on the periodicals at the McCaffrey check out line.

  • SFB

    I don’t think this article implies in any way that these people are not entitled to contractually entitled benefits. On the other hand, it does a great job of letting taxpayers know the value of those contractual benefits. That seems like a public service. People are always complaining about taxes being too high. Well here’s an example of why they are high.

  • Robert Dana

    What’s the point of this list? Are you suggesting these public servants are not entitled to receive their benefits – benefits to which they are contractually entitled?

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