TRENTON – The state department that oversees local governments doesn’t have powers over the payouts towns may continue to make to workers for unused sick leave, as detailed by a report issued last week by the state comptroller.

Changing that would require the involvement of the Legislature, where a lawmaker who has long advocated for stricter limits on sick-leave payouts still says they should be eliminated going forward.

The comptroller’s report says a survey of 60 municipalities finds nearly all of them either continue to make payouts that violate state laws that cap them at $15,000 for new workers and senior managers or have language in their ordinances, contracts or policies that allow for it.

Department of Community Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said the Murphy administration will review the findings and recommendations of the state comptroller’s report.

“DCA’s Division of Local Government Services does not have jurisdictional or enforcement powers over local government entities regarding sick leave payouts,” Ryan said.

'Everybody should be outraged'

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, said she was offended by the results of the survey but not surprised. She said if nobody is looking, people will try to get away with things.

“I’m sure I was as appalled as many in the general public were that people are ignoring the law and just making up their own rules. This is taxpayer dollars,” Munoz said.

“When we read reports from the comptroller about how people are abusing it and actually blatantly violating what they’re required to do, everybody should be actually outraged about this,” she said.

Since 2012, Munoz has sponsored legislation that would prohibit payouts to public officers or employees for accumulated unused sick leave. It has not advanced.

Nearly capped 12 years ago

In 2010, then-Gov. Chris Christie asked the Legislature to pass a $15,000 cap on sick-leave payouts that would apply to all municipal workers. The Legislature passed that but Christie vetoed it, saying there should not be any sick-leave payments at all.

Democratic lawmakers said they didn’t think it was legal to change the conditions of employment for existing workers though said they were willing to pass a $7,500 cap. Christie wouldn’t agree to that.

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Munoz continues to support fully eliminating the payouts for all workers going forward.

“This report should be a trigger to the legislators and to our current Legislature that the public wants this changed,” Munoz said. “This has been abused, and it’s time to make a change.”

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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