Rockaway Township could have saved $4.5 million in three years if it had eliminated duplicate prescription benefits.
That’s according to an audit report released by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) on May 24, which found the township had accumulated nearly $4 million in financial liabilities. The liabilities were, in large part, due to excessive accrual of unused vacation leave.
“Our audit shows multiple failings by Rockaway Township, from unlawful policies and contracts to just staggering, inexcusable waste,” said Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh. “For many years, Rockaway Township leaders failed to protect public funds.”
Duplicate Prescription Benefits
The audit noted the township had provided duplicate prescription benefits to retirees since at least 2008. OSC’s audit focused on the 2019 to 2021 period. During the time frame, OSC noted Rockaway could have saved $3.1 million on duplicate prescription benefits for 143 retired employees.
Improper Accrual of Vacation Time
Rockaway’s collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and employee manual permitted unused vacation time accrual which violated state law.
Some Rockaway Township employees were allowed to accrue up to 75 unused vacation days, which was 25 above the state limit. Police employees were permitted up to 90 days, 40 days more than permitted by law.
OSC found five senior police officers, including the police chief, improperly accumulated unused holiday-related vacation pay of $1.2 million. The unused holiday-related vacation leave accumulated by all police officers was $3.5 million as of the end of 2021, OSC found.
Ignoring Independent Auditors
In both 2020 and 2021, Rockaway Township’s independent auditors recommended the township ask its lawyers to review policies and contracts to ensure the town was complying with state laws governing employee vacation leave.
In 2021, the auditor recommended re-evaluating unexpended money within Rockaway’s coffers. OSC calculated $10 million had been sitting unspent and uncommitted for more than five years.
“Two years in a row, the Township’s independent auditor made recommendations that were intended to protect taxpayers,” said Walsh. “The auditors were right. There was a real problem here.”