* This letter was originally sent from Republican mayoral candidate Al Smith to Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover and submitted as a Letter to the Editor.
Dear Mayor Glover:
As you are aware, I have been publicly calling on you for the last 5 weeks to repay the taxpayers of Scotch Plains for the value of the healthcare benefits you received in violation of New Jersey law. I write again today to ask you to repay taxpayers for $31,500 you took illegally.
You admit that you are taking the healthcare benefits under the New Jersey State Health Benefits Plan (SHBP) as a part-time elected official in Scotch Plains. You cannot dispute the application of N.J.S.A. 52:14-17.26 as amended by P.L. 2010, c.2. to those benefits, as the law does not allow part-time elected officials to receive health benefits, unless they were participating in the SHBP on May 21, 2010 and have not changed elected position since May 21, 2010. And you cannot dispute, that under Scotch Plains’ form of government, the Faulkner Act, that the mayor and town council positions are part-time.
Therefore, you cannot dispute that you obtained your benefits in violation of New Jersey law. In the end, it makes no difference whether you intentionally or mistakenly took the benefits. The fact is those benefits were obtained illegally, and the people of Scotch Plains deserve to be repaid for the benefits you wrongly obtained.
Just as troublesome is that your taking of taxpayer-funded health benefits jeopardizes Scotch Plains’ state property tax relief aid. As you know, the Department of Community Affairs’ best practices program scores municipalities lower when part-time elected officials take health benefits. Changes to New Jersey budget laws give the state discretion to penalize municipalities as much as 100% of their state aid. By continuing to take illegal health benefits as a part-time elected official, you are jeopardizing our state property tax relief aid, and your actions could cost taxpayers far more than the $31,500 in illegal benefits you have taken so far.
You and I disagree on many issues. But I sincerely hope we can agree on this one: when a wrong is committed, it must be corrected. Do the right thing and correct this wrong. Stop taking health benefits and repay taxpayers now.