Trenton Makes It Official. PLUS, Updated E.R.A.'s

We read this story in last Thursday’s Trenton Times:

not a reaction

In this article, Trenton Business Administrator Terry McEwen talked to Times reporter Cristina Rojas about a new position in Trenton’s payroll department to process transactions for employee payroll and Human Resources activity. Ms. Rojas reported that Mcwen explained that this new person “would have nothing to do with making sure that payroll taxes are paid to the state and federal governments.”

City spokesperson Michael Walker agrees with BA McEwen. The Times quotes Walker as saying, “”What payroll does and what finance does are completely and totally different. The internal controls that are in place so the taxing authorities are being paid on a regular schedule are very different than payroll.”

So. Are we all clear on this now? The City of Trenton is very emphatic that this proposed (Council must approve the 2nd Reading of an Ordinance authorizing this new position at a future meeting) new payroll position is, in the words of the above headline, “not a reaction” to the Great Payroll Robbery of 2015, in which the City’s payroll vendor at the time, Innovative Payroll Services (IPS), embezzled in excess of $4,700,000 of city funds intended for deposits due to the Internal Revenue Service and the State of New Jersey for payroll taxes in the second half of 2015.

Got that?

That means that the City of Trenton has made it official, and crystal clear for the world to see:

  • Since IPS started ripping off the City in the summer of 2015;
  • Since Eric Jackson told us,”breaking his silence” of weeks on this subject, on February 18, 2016 that city “Staff internally reconciling, looking at recordkeeping documents said something looked awry and began to look further and said to their director, ‘Something doesn’t look right here. We’re finding some inconsistencies’ and they kept elevating;”
  • Since March 8, 2016, when Ms. Rojas published a piece asking “How many red flags were missed over Trenton’s payroll problems?” in which she described – based on reporting in this space – how the City ignored several invoices from the IRS and the State about tax irregularities from at least April of 2015;
  • Since March 14, 2016, when Rojas reported, “Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson said Monday that the city’s outside labor counsel is reviewing its internal controls and any steps that can be taken to ensure there is no repeat of its payroll fiasco… ‘Not only are we taking an internal audit, but we’re having an outside legal firm look at the processes that not only took place during that period, but the organization that’s set up so we can avoid having similar things,’ Jackson said during a media roundtable. He said the firm is taking a detailed look at how it occurred and what safeguards can be put in place to protect the city in the future;”

Since all of these things, the City of Trenton has announced NO “reaction to [this] embezzling scheme.”

There have been NO reported results of these so-called “audits” and “outside counsel review.”

NO ONE has been fired or otherwise disciplined, as far as we know, for their role in falling asleep at the switch and ignoring nine months of “red flags.” NO ONE has been held accountable, and NO ONE has accepted any responsibility.

There have been NO publicly-announced changes in administrative procedures and policies  as a result of the massive internal failures that led to frequent and repeated thefts over a half-year period totaling nearly FIVE MILLION DOLLARS!!

There has been NO explanation given to the fact that what public statements about the Great Payroll Robbery were made to the press by Mayor Jackson and city officials such as Council President and West Ward Member Zachary Chester described a narrative that varied greatly from the version of events that the City described in its legal brief filed in Federal Court in support of its lawsuit.

In summary, from last year to this, Nothing Has Happened in the aftermath of that debacle!

And, as the news story published last week about this new position seems to Officially Confirm, as far as the City of Trenton is concerned, Nothing Will Happen.

Got that?

OK, then. The City is simply moving on.

– # –

UPDATE: After my piece on Friday, several readers responded to my request for additional data to calculate the Earned Run Averages for our previous two mayors. Thank you!

A couple of you pointed out that the Westside Plaza deal, for the abandoned grocery store rented by the City as part of a plan to put Trenton’s Municipal Court there, was the brainchild of former Mayor Douglas Palmer. I was certainly aware of that, but judged that it was Tony Mack’s unilateral cancellation of the lease in July 2010 that led to the eventual settlement of the case for $1.325 Million. So I charged that “run” to Tony Mack.

I have since reviewed that ruling. Upon consulting the official Rules of Major League Baseball, I find that Rule 9.16 governs this situation. That rule states, in part, “In determining earned runs, the official scorer shall reconstruct the inning without the errors (which exclude catcher’s interference) and passed balls, giving the benefit of the doubt always to the pitcher in determining which bases would have been reached by runners had there been errorless play.” [Emphasis mine - KM]

In this case, Mack’s inept handling of this lease led directly to a $1.3 Million payout during his rotation; he is definitely charged with an error. But Doug Palmer put that runner on base. The underlying deal was so bad, and the courthouse plan so unrealistic, that I can’t envision a scenario in which that deal would not have bellied up,. and in which we would have avoided a lawsuit and settlement.

That runner would have scored had there been errorless play. So I take that settlement out of Mack’s ERA and charge it to Doug Palmer.

In addition, I was reminded that at least one other lawsuit was filed that may eventually impact Mack’s ERA. Roberto Perez, brother of unsuccessful mayoral candidate Paul Perez, filed suit against the City in December 2015, alleging sexual harassment by his supervisor back in 2012, during the Mack Administration. As of today, I can’t find any reference to any settlement or resolution to that case. Should it result in a cash award, that will be charged to Mack. I’ve included this case as Pending, against Tony Mack.

With these adjustments. I’ve recalculated Mack’s ERA down to 3.80. Jackson’s remains unchanged at 8.93. I’ve also been reminded that we had George Muschal as a Reliever for 4.75 months in 2014, after Mack was pulled from the game. That’s a reasonable amount of time for a reliever, so I will look at pulling some stats for him. Stay tuned.

Since this will be a semi-regular feature going forward, I’ve put all the player stats to date in a spreadsheet, the easier to summarize them. The current numbers are below, and will be updated as circumstances require, and as news stories and/or reader submissions come in.

Thanks for playing!

era 1-9-17

Tony Mack – July 1, 2010 to Feb 7, 2014
Item Note Amount
Mike Davis Settlement park ranger bumped for Chico Mendez $195,000
Westside Plaza Settlement: UPDATE Hermitage Avenue store rented as Municipal Court building; project charged to Doug Palmer $0
Kenneth Howard wrongful death while in police custody in 2011: UPDATED to reflect portion paid by insurance $417,585
Darren Horton wrongful death 3-year-old who drowned in city pool in 2010 $1,200,000
Kenia Leiva excessive force settlement 2011 incident $43,000
Mayor’s Learning Center Libraries WAG (Wild-Assed Guess) Estimate in lieu of dependable data $500,000
Lafayette Yard 2013 funding $295,000 cash flow funding plus $200,000 transition costs in connection with sale $495,000
Youth Stat Costs disallowed by Feds frm US Dept of Justice Grant $55,000
Heritage Days/Thanksgiving Parades WAG Estimate $100,000
National Night Out 2012 Cost Overrun $12,000
Cadwalader Park Vanity Sign Tony F. Mack® $17,000
Maria Richardson Settlement Parks & Rec whistleblower employee fired by city $350,000
Roberto Perez: NEW Sexual Harassment suit filed in 2015 for 2012 incident: Action Pending as of 1/9/17 TBD
Maximo Rodriguez-Torres settlement 07/2013 police-caused traffic accident $35,000
TOTAL $3,419,585
Calc of ERA: divided by 43.25 IP (months served), x 48 full-term mos, divided by 1,000,000 3.80
George Mushal – Feb 7 to July 1, 2014
Item Note Amount
Calc of ERA: divided by 4.75 IP (months served), x 48 full-term mos, divided by 1,000,000 TBD
Eric Jackson – July 1, 2014 to Present (calculated to 12/31/16)
Item Note Amount
FCC Consulting Services 3-year premium to be paid compared to lower qualified bids received $500,000
2016 Public Swimming Pools contracts Additional costs over 2015 season, due to canceling one vendor and hiring another $100,000
2015 City Audit findings disallowed and unauthorized administrative spending, per findings of city auditors $105,000
Lael Queen settlement Police excessive force incident 2014 $175,000
The Great Payroll Robbery of 2015 Innovative Payroll Services embezzlement of federal and state tax payments $4,700,000
TOTAL $5,580,000
Calc of ERA: divided by 30.00 IP (months served), x 48 full-term mos, divided by 1,000,000 8.93

1 comment to Trenton Makes It Official. PLUS, Updated E.R.A.’s

  • John Lamb

    It does not seem to me that the “game” being played (using this metaphor) by the members of the current administration and council members, has goals or “scores” that are related to what one would normally expect. As a result I don’t believe that “current game players” to understand what has so clearly been presented here by Kevin. Neither do I believe they have any interest in understanding either his presentation or the structures on which it is based. The city remains an ATM machine for the unscrupulous forces benefiting from this lack of interest and understanding.