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Atlantic City's water board says vote to give themselves $3K gifts 'never existed'

The Atlantic City Municipal Water Authority board turns to tortured existential logic to take back its vote to give themselves $3,000 gifts this month.

ATLANTIC CITY - This vote was unusual - even by Atlantic City standards.

The board of the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority traversed some tricky philosophical ground Wednesday when it voted that a previously resolution to award its members $3,000 bonuses "never existed."

Board members insist the resolution that passed Nov. 28, was signed by board vice chair Gary Hill and posted on its website — so-called "Resolution 199" — was never intended to be voted on.

They say a draft resolution that similarly awards $3,000 honorariums to board members with more than five years of service - but omits a December time frame — was what they meant to vote on.

Board solicitor Fredrick Bor said that resolution was simply meant to continue a tradition that members with more than five years on the board who retire, die or otherwise leave the board get a $3,000 parting gift.

However the draft resolution does not include any language referring to outgoing board members either. Bor said, "It was implied." He blamed the difference in the drafts to "improper cutting and pasting."

In any event, the state's new overseer, Jeffrey Chiesa, has said he would veto the resolution passed Nov 28 that references $3,000 gifts.

The MUA, which provides the city's drinking water and has commercial clients as well, has been at the center of the state's interest in near-bankrupt Atlantic City.  Several private water companies as well as the county have expressed interest in buying or leasing the asset, valued at $100 million.

The vote on Wednesday was, said Bor, "to reaffirm this was never before the board."

The resolution, available on the website, "was never before the board, never voted on, never brought before the board."

The last honorarium was for a board member who passed away "four or five years ago."

Board chair Milton L. Smith said, "There was no intent for any board member to take a Christmas present of $3,000."

Hill said he signed the incorrect resolution "without looking at it."

Board member William Cheatham said previously he never voted to give himself a bonus and was surprised when his wife started asking him about it.

In other action, the water board said that despite the fact that Atlantic City had not paid its water bill in two years, and owed nearly half-million dollars, the authority would still honor a separate legal obligation giving the municipality about $700,000 out of a reserve fund.

At the end of the meeting, a former employee made a plea to continue a practice of giving 25-year employees watches with their names engraved.

Smith, the board chair, said he wished he could push the measure, but that given the state's response to the supposed honorariums, "I'd be embarrassed to do it."

The board then adjourned to a sub tray lunch from White House Sub Shops, provided at rate payer expense. Asked about the free lunch, executive director Bruce Ward said, "I never challenge what the organization has done."