In The Interest of Transparency And Trust

I can be called one of those “double dippers”. Since “hiding” things about my public life is not comfortable for me, here goes:

After spending approximately 35 years in full time public service as an Assistant Bergen County Administrator, Legislative Director and then an Assemblywoman and now a Senator, (paying my portion into the pension during that entire period) I decided to finally apply for my public pension.  Of course, I could have done that some 5 to 10 years earlier, but since I had enjoyed the fruits of a family business built with my husband, and had some good investments (or so I thought), I never looked into that “pension thing”.

After a major financial setback resulting from my so-called “Financial Advisor” investing all my money (including my IRA) with a man I never heard of (read: Bernie Madoff) a colleague suggested that I would most likely qualify for my pension. Based on age, number of years in the “system”, and the  years I spent as a full time Bergen County employee etc. I was informed I could formally retire, finally collect my pension and still continue as a State Legislator.  So at age 75,  I decided it was time and financially necessary.

I am now paid $49,000 for being a State Senator and about $36,000 annually in my state pension. Though I never went in to public service to make money, I am grateful for this income at this time of my life, because of the situation Bernie Madoff created for me.  I never thought about hiding any of this, but the news about the Essex County Executive and the Cape May Surrogate has made me feel awkward. The circumstances might be very different, but the result is essentially the same.

So there you have it. I am not apologizing for any decisions I made. And it is legal! My public life, along with my personal disclosure forms, have been appropriately transparent. But I’ll probably be more than usually interested in the comments section of today’s column.

Now on to another subject!  The Democratic map was accepted. Some districts will be a bit more competitive, but I feel confident that we will maintain majorities in both houses of the legislature. “Assemblyman” Jeff Gardner also does have a nice ring to it!

As the Senator from District 37, I know I’m sorry to lose Bergenfield from our district. This town was finally coming together with Mayor Timothy Driscoll and the incumbent council and turning its back on the old leadership who were so responsible for the issues around my selection as a State Senator. We’re also losing Ridgefield Park which is home to a great group of citizens and the wonderful Mayor Fosdick, along with a terrific 4th of July parade. Maywood is another town we will miss.

But it’s going to be fun and interesting to welcome back Ft. Lee which was part of the district 10 years ago along with the new communities of Northvale, Cresskill, Alpine and Rockleigh.

So here we go into another election season, facing tough budget problems, new towns, protecting collective bargaining, and speaking up for those who need government the most. I am glad Drumthwacket is being bathed in blue lights to call attention to autism awareness month, but restoring money for early intervention services for autistic children is infinitely more important.

Keep your voices heard!

Comments (18)

  1. Hopeful

    …what the system is for.  It’s too bad common sense rules, which allow you to collect your pension after a lifetime of work and still do a part-time job, get turned into abuses by some.  

    I’m very sorry to hear that you were robbed by Madoff, and that you have to discuss it so publicly.


  2. danpreston

    Is there any justification for amputating Princeton off of the 15th LD and sticking it with the 16th? It seems it was intra-party feuding meant to punish Reed Gusciore. Reed can move back into the 15th. The citizens of Princeton cannot. Why are we being punished? Redistricting should be about the citizens, yet we’re the ones who will pay the price for the next 10 years, stuck with conservative legislators hostile to our interests. Thanks a lot to the Dems who engineered this.

  3. deciminyan

    thank you for the disclosure. But more importantly, thank you for a career of public service where you put the interests of your constituents (and those of us who are not directly your constituents) ahead of your self-interest. If only the rest of Trenton were like you…

  4. speedkillsu

    Loretta ,I just have one question when a bill is to be voted on that rescinds this unusual perk …how will you vote ? self interest or the interests of the other 8 million plus taxpayers who can’t receive this perk.. will you see to it that a :grandfather (or in this case grandmother ) clause exempting already retirees  inserted into the bill ?  

  5. TREEeditor2

    Loretta, as a small handfull of decent democrats in NJ, i respect you.  The double dipping although surprising i understand due to the situation created by madoff.  However, i cannot waive the severe conflict of interest that this creates.  The public pension fund is busted and so far in the hole that drastic measures have to be taken.  Major decisions need to be made.  You will be part of the dialogue, interfacing iwth the other members of the legislature.  With a major part of your income now based on the pension system that is in place, we cannot trust you to make an objective dialogue and decision on any changes that may be made.    You must step down and soon to maintain your ethical standards you so put forth.  Again I am sorry what happened to you but the halls of the legislature must be kept clean.  I wish you luck in your future.  Any financial advise call me first, maybe I can help you out.

  6. Hetty Rosenstein

    Let’s not confuse Loretta and Joe DiVincenzo.

    1. Loretta is not earning $153,000 a year.

    2. Loretta is not 58 years old.

    3. Loretta is not attacking the modest pensions and benefits of public workers while taking home a pension in addition to a pay check where the pension alone is 3 times the amount most public workers get.

    There is no comparison between Loretta Weinberg and Joe DiVincenzo.  One is a dedicated and committed public servant, the other is a hypocritical political boss.

  7. Bertin Lefkovic

    …with towns like Hillsborough and Montgomery Township than it does with a city like Trenton, but yes, I am sure that this decision has much more to do with punishing Reed Gusciora than anything else.

    Rather than looking at this situation negatively, like Reed Gusciora appears to be, I think that the citizens of Princeton and South Brunswick and their progressive elected officials should look at this as the opportunity that it is to make a formerly red district purple and work with the progressives in Hunterdon and Somerset County who have been so poorly represented for so long to bring about change to all of your communities.

    Finally, when you think about it, I would be more embarrassed to be represented by a Democratic State Senator like Shirley Turner, who shockingly voted against marriage equality and expressed hostility towards my values, than a Republican State Senator like Kip Bateman, who paid lip service towards my values until push came to shove and disappointingly proved himself to be a coward in the face of threats from reactionary Tea Party members and ultra-conservative Republican primary voters.

  8. 12mileseastofTrenton

    I’ve just spent 10 years in a Republican district.  Now, I’ve been moved to a Democratic-leaning district.  It just happens.

    I think in this instance it was just a matter of making all the pieces fit.  Someone had to lose out.  Next time around things could be different.

  9. Bertin Lefkovic

    As much as I like the new LD16, I cannot ignore the fact that it is a convoluted mess, stretching a district across four counties.  There should be a rule that districts cannot be stretched across more than two counties.

    This district cannot be dismissed as simply the luck of the draw.  There was undoubtably purpose involved here, mostly ill-intentioned purpose at that, but because it made both LD15 and LD16 somewhat more competitive, I think that it will be a good thing in the long run, regardless of the impact that it might have on Reed Gusciora’s political career.

    Reed’s a big boy.  He’ll have to deal with it.  My only hope is that he chooses to deal with it by finding some guts and taking on Kip Bateman instead of cutting and running to Trenton.  Ever since Reed was the first elected official in NJ to endorse Howard Dean, I have been a big fan of his, which is why this situation has become so disappointing to me.

    Ever since 2003, I have ascribed to a very simple principle with regards to politics and that principle can be expressed with an acronym: WWHDD?







    If faced with the same situation that Reed Gusciora is faced with right now, I seriously doubt that Howard Dean would sell his house and move to a neighboring city, just so he could have an easier chance at being re-elected, especially when doing so would provide political cover for a regressive (insert expletive here), who is in the process of doing the same thing in another part of the state.

    If principles cannot persuade Reed to do the right thing, maybe NJ’s weak housing market will prevent him from being able to sell his house and leave Princeton, as if living in Princeton is such a terrible thing.  I should be so lucky.

  10. Rosi Efthim

    Man, you hit that right?

    My watchword all day, for the 16th, for the 15th: WWHD? Thanks for that reminder, rachael’sdad. It’s a kick in the ass.  

  11. Jeff Doshna

    I love this — a new mantra for all of us:  What would Howard Do?

    I agree that Reed should stay in Princeton, and run with Marie Corfield here in the 16th.

    As to the continuity issue — I think that by traffic patterns alone, this 202/206 district has more in common than folks would otherwise imagine.

  12. danpreston

    had the highest voting percentages for candidate Obama in the NJ presidential primary in 2008. Princeton Borough and Township vote Democratic by at least 2 to 1 and often as high as 4 to 1, and are represented by all-Democratic municipal governments. Trenton and Princeton have many shared interests and shared values. I’d like to hear how Hillsborough and Montgomery compare.

    We will make the best of it and look forward to working with progressives in the new 16th LD. And we’ll do whatever we can to help turn it from red to purple to blue.

    But I’m not convinced our leaders made this move with any high purpose in mind. It’ll be up to us as citizens to make the best of what they’ve handed us.

  13. danpreston

    the highest percentages for Obama in MERCER COUNTY in the 2008 primary. Sorry for the error.

  14. Senator Loretta Weinberg (Post author)

    I will absent myself from the discussion and from the vote.

  15. Senator Loretta Weinberg (Post author)

    And thank you for the input.  I’m sorry you feel you cannot “trust” me and I’m sorry I disappointed you.  I am not stepping down and I am again running for another term in the Senate.  My ethics, decisions, votes and work over the past 20 years as a full time legislator will be judged by my constituents.  My full time work in the public sector for the preceding 15 years as a county administrator which  qualified me for this pension can also be judged.  I hope to earn your “trust” again in the future even though I have not lived up to your standards.

  16. firstamend07

    There is something wrong with people who scream about fairness and fight discrimination and then attack those who happen to make a decent salary.

    Both Senator Weinberg and Executive DiVencenzo are abiding by the law and neither is ” better” than the other.

    To call someone a “hypocritical boss” simply because he makes a decent salary is almost socialist.

    As a union official do you look down on the members of your union who make more?

    Whether I like this setup or not, it is legal. We should not be judging based on how much a person makes. If that is the ” mantra” of your union then I now know why CWA has so many problems.  

    If CWA does not like Joe Di then just come out and say you do not like him for his views.

    If the law is changed then both should be grandfathered and both are equally right in collecting what is owed to them.

    I worry when socialist views are hidden behind progressive ideas.

  17. Alex

    My understanding is that Joseph DiVincenzo started collecting his retirement while still employed as Essex County Executive. In other words, he is collecting a pension and a paycheck for the same job. That strikes me as a key difference between his situation and Sen. Weinberg’s. That’s not to say that this sort of situation shouldn’t be reformed across the board, particularly as many of the same people who are collecting a pension have failed to adequately fund the state’s own pension obligations, even while public workers have their own contributions withheld from their paychecks.

  18. Got Kids

    You must have missed the memo where Hetty Rosenstein gets to tell Us who are the real progressives.


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