Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Prosecutor Exited with $14,000 Payout

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Prosecutor Exited with $14,000 Payout

Article excerpt

Bergen County gave former Prosecutor John Molinelli a day's pay for every full year he served in the job and he continued on the payroll for two weeks after a new prosecutor came onboard -- collecting more than $14,000 as his tenure drew to a close, documents show.

Molinelli served in the $165,000-a-year post for nearly 14 years. He was replaced by Gurbir Grewal, who was sworn in as acting prosecutor on Jan. 4.

In addition to briefly drawing his salary after Grewal took over, Molinelli also received an additional $635 for each of his 13 full years of service, roughly $8,000.

"When they told me it existed and they were writing it, I was grateful and I took it and I said, OK, thank you," said Molinelli. "I was told it was the policy."

To be sure, what Molinelli received on his way out the door pales by comparison to the six-figure golden parachutes routinely won by retiring police chiefs and other longtime public officials. But the one-day-per-year payment, nonetheless, is notable because it evidently was not based on any contractual or statutory obligation.

'Past practices'

A memo about that payment by the county's chief financial officer, Joseph Luppino, said it was based on "past practices." It notes Molinelli's predecessor, William Schmidt, received one day's pay for each of his five years' service.

"I don't know if it's a written policy, and I don't know if it applied to anyone else," said Alicia D'Alessandro, a county spokeswoman. "They just wanted to reflect what historically had been done."

Both D'Alessandro and Luppino point out that, unlike most other county employees, the prosecutor can't accrue vacation and sick time and then cash out those unused days when leaving office.

As for the two weeks of salary, there was a slight difference in the explanations offered by the county and Molinelli about its basis -- though no dispute that the pay was warranted. Payroll records indicate he received $6,346, or 10 days' pay, for that time.

Molinelli said he opted to take two weeks' vacation and, given that he wasn't retiring until the end of the month, could have even been paid longer.

"In theory I could have really stayed on the payroll until Feb. …

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