Over the past decade, at least a dozen municipalities have provided potentially questionable coverage to their elected officials through SHBP, documents obtained through public records requests showed. That encompassed 32 current and former officials whose benefits cost taxpayers at least $2.3 million since 2014, including $332,000 in 2023 alone.
The state’s current rules have drawn criticism from some municipal advocates, who say they create confusion in SHBP towns over whether their officials meet the 35-hour threshold to be eligible for benefits.
That’s because the Treasury Department has never offered clear guidance on how elected officials’ hours should be calculated and documented, despite the undefined nature of their roles, said Marc Pfeiffer,
a former deputy director of the state Division of Local Government Services.
“That doesn’t excuse individuals who have consciously abused the system,” said Pfeiffer, now a professor at Rutgers University. “But there are probably any number of cases where elected officials can spend 30, 35 hours a week in their job as an unpaid or low-paid elected official.”
Pfeiffer said the state needs to clarify how the rules should be applied. He said that could be done administratively or by lawmakers through new legislation.
“The lack of guidance from the Legislature leaves uncertainties and loopholes and opportunities for different interpretations,” Pfeiffer said.
NJ.com, December 19, 2023