From the Home News Tribune:
Somerset County rentals are among the most expensive in the region — unless, that is, the occupant is employed by the county’s Park Commission. According to a consultant’s report made public earlier this month, 11 parks employees are receiving either free or vastly reduced rents to live in homes owned by the county. The perks don’t end there, either. In some cases, free utilities are part of the deal, as is free gasoline for some. It all adds up to what the law firm of Wolff & Samson, contracted to review commission practices, called a “systemic failure” of management. Regular folks might call it something else: A complete and thorough rip-off of taxpayers.
It should go without saying that government of every size and at every level should strive to spend the public’s coin wisely. The park system’s sweetheart housing agreements spit on that notion.
How is it possible, for example, to justify the $500-a-month rent charged to commission Executive Director Raymond Brown, who already earns $163,813 a year, for the tree-shaded home in which he resides in the Martinsville section of Bridgewater? The commission pays for Brown’s gasoline as well. Or the no-rent deal that Darrell Marcinek, the county’s golf courses superintendent, gets for his sprawling abode in Hillsborough? Or the $437-a-month rent charged to a golf maintenance manager who rents the historic Dunlop House in Branchburg. Or the $520 paid every four weeks by the foreman of the Natirar property, the 491-acre former estate of a Moroccan king, who occupies the Lawton House off Main Street in Peapack-Gladstone — the highest rent, by the way, that any of the employees pay?
On top of these way-below-market rates, none of the tenants pay heating costs. Those charges are picked up by the county.
Even so, Brown, the recreation superintendent, had the temerity to suggest that Somerset County was following the norm. He complained, “If we were to charge market rates for some of these (homes), some of our employees wouldn’t be able to afford them.” Welcome to the real world, Mr. Brown. That’s what workers in the private sector deal with every day, but they find a way.