Turnpike chief severance deal assailed
Thursday, March 21,
By PAT R. GILBERT AND DANIEL SFORZA
Critics are raising eyebrows over a $70,000
severance package that former Union County Manager Michael Lapolla received
before he left to
become the new head of the New Jersey Turnpike
Lapolla, who started his $140,400-a-year turnpike job Monday,
cashed in more than 100 unused vacation and sick days from Union
He went to work for the county as first assistant prosecutor in
1991 and became county manager in 1997.
"They shouldn't be able to broker
these deals," said state Sen. Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon.
Wednesday that the settlement was a condition of his hiring when he took the
$139,123-a-year county manager's job.
"You have agreements when you're
hired and these were the terms of my agreement," Lapolla said. "It was voted on
last week and everything
was done out in the open and on the record. Every
government employee who leaves gets paid for vacation days, so that's not really
I made a very good salary with the county and these days reflect
that salary. I earned these days."
Union County officials said there was
nothing improper about the deal.
County Administrative Services Director
Joseph Salemme said regular unionized employees can receive a maximum of $18,000
when they leave or retire from their jobs.
"County managers have been
handled differently," he said. "The board sets the policy for non-contractual
Lapolla received money for 62 sick days accrued since he took
over as county manager and for 68.5 vacation days. The payment for each
was $535, a rate based on his annual salary as county manager. He said he
could have asked to be paid for an additional 80 earned sick days, but
"This is disgusting,"
Gail Masson-Massey, former president of
Communications Workers of America Local 1080, said in a published report. "They're asking everyone else to tighten their belts
and then $70,000 goes walking out the door? Amazing."
defended the settlement, said it wasn't always easy finding time to take a
"If you're running an organization with 2,800 employees, you
can't take five weeks' vacation," he said. "You took it when you could.
closed our jail among other things, and lots of things make it not
Lance said he will propose legislation that would limit such
payments to $15,000.