Michael Angelini, a politically connected Democrat from Gloucester County, has built up a taxpayer-funded pension worth more than $100,000 a year, even though he appeared to have worked as an independent contractor, not a bona fide government employee, according to a state report issued yesterday and referred to the Attorney General's Office.
Angelini, chairman of the Gloucester County Democratic Committee, cobbled together jobs at a dozen public entities, ranging from municipalities and county boards to a regional transportation authority, in more than 27 years of government work.
Along the way, he also worked as a partner in his own law firm, but he claimed to be a government employee at the same time, according to the report from Inspector General Mary Jane Cooper.
In some cases, Angelini convinced his government employers to pay him and his law firm in a way that would build his personal pension credits. In other cases, Angelini farmed out the work he did to others at his firm, but he still received credit for his pension, according to the report.
Former Camden County Sen. Wayne Bryant was convicted of corruption charges last year for a similar practice. One of the positions that brought about Bryant's conviction was at the Gloucester County Board of Social Services, where Angelini also worked for nearly 20 years.
The investigation "raises a substantial question concerning the propriety of Angelini's enrollment in the pension system," the report said.
Along with going to Gov. Corzine, Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie and the state's attorney general, the report was referred to the Division of Pension and Benefits, which has the power to review Angelini's retirement payout.
In his time in the pension system, Angelini held up to seven public jobs at once, while also working at his firm, Angelini, Viniar & Freedman. In 2005, Angelini earned more than $213,000 from his government jobs, the highest total in his career. He topped $200,000 in 2004 and 2003 as well.
Angelini applied for his retirement benefits after a 2008 law made clear that independent contractors are not eligible for public pensions, the report said.
Angelini defended his work as legal at the time he was employed.
"I have followed the rules and practices in effect at the time of my enrollment in the pension system and throughout the time of my contributions to it," Angelini said in a statement released to the Gloucester County Times. ". . . The public has a right to know that they received the same quality and standard of legal services which we offer to all of our clients."
The government bodies that employed Angelini from 1981 to 2008 were: Gloucester County municipalities East Greenwich, Monroe, Clayton, West Deptford, Paulsboro and Mantua; Oaklyn, in Camden County; the Gloucester County freeholders, Board of Social Services, and Improvement Authority; the South Jersey Transportation Authority and the South Jersey Port Corp.
The report said the inspector general plans to investigate other workers who used similar pension-building tactics.