Turnpike Authority former boss to get nearly $40,000 severance

Published in the Home News Tribune 1/30/02

The former head of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority will receive a severance package worth nearly $40,000 plus all the benefits normally provided to retirees.

The severance package for former Executive Director Edward Gross, who left office Jan. 14, is "consistent with past practice," according to a memo approved yesterday by the authority's Board of Commissioners. Chairman Frank X. McDermott said he thought the package for Gross was fair.

Earlier this month, McGreevey blamed Gross for the high cost of the E-ZPass electronic toll-collection system, now nearly triple original estimates, and demanded Gross' resignation saying state officials must be held accountable for irresponsible overspending.

Gross' total departure package equals $39,302.57, said authority spokeswoman Lynn Fleeger. Gross will receive $23,400, or two months salary, as severance pay based on one week of salary for each year of service, she said. He also will receive $15,000 for accumulated sick leave and $902.57 for vacation accrued this year. The former director has 10 years invested in the authority's pension plan, Fleeger said.

Gross, who is in his early 60s, will receive health benefits for life, which is provided to managers who work at the authority for at least five years, said Fleeger. He will not get toll-free passage on the highway, she said.

On Jan. 14, less than two weeks after McGreevey's demand, Gross "relinquished his responsibilities" and said he would retire on Feb. 1. In the interim, Gross has received his full salary while serving as an adviser to acting Executive Director Diane Scaccetti, who had been deputy director.

There is no time frame for choosing a new executive director, said McDermott.

When asked if the new director might oversee the Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, McDermott said, "That's not a new thought. That's been proposed from every governor on." McDermott added, "There readily could be a merger" of the two highways after financial and legal questions are resolved.

McGreevey promised during his gubernatorial campaign to merge the authorities for the Turnpike, Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway. The authority's commissioners will appoint the new executive director.

As governor, McGreevey has no direct control over the turnpike authority, except to appoint its commissioners when positions come open and approve minutes of its meetings.

Just over a year ago, Gross had projected installation of the automatic tolls would cost $65 million. But numbers released by Gross late last month showed the cost increased to $162 million, and McGreevey has provided a draft report putting detailing expenses are closer to $180 million and could reach $300 million.

Gross came to the authority in February 1995 as director of law. He became acting executive director in October 1995 and executive director in spring 1997. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sharon Waters: (732) 565-7270; e-mail swaters@thnt.com from the Home News
Tribune Published: January 30, 2002 Copyright 1997-2002 INJersey.