Will Gov. Murphy’s pals NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller and Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill receive the same treatment as the three Wildwood officials who were just indicted by Attorney General Platkin? All the above availed themselves of full-time state health benefits under questionable circumstances. But the big difference is that Spiller and Gill have very strong ties to our governor: under Spiller, the NJEA has spent $15.5 million supporting Murphy, $10.5 million of which went to New Direction New Jersey, the pro-Murphy Super PAC run by … Brendan Gill. Platkin has said he will prosecute the Wildwood Three to the “full extent of the law.” Will the AG apply the same standard to Spiller and Gill?
According to the AG’s office, Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron, former Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr., and current City Commissioner Steve Mikulski were indicted by a grand jury for illegally availing themselves of full-time state health benefits, among other charges.
According to the AG’s office:
New Jersey law requires elected officials to be full-time employees “whose hours of work are fixed at 35 or more per week” in their elected positions to be eligible to participate in the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) and receive publicly funded healthcare. The investigation revealed that Byron, Troiano, and Mikulski, were never eligible because they were never “full-time” employees according to that definition.
All told, Wildwood and SHBP paid $286,500 for Troiano, $608,900 for Byron and $103,000 for Mikulski.
The Montclair Local reported that Spiller similarly availed himself of $49,800 in benefits from SHBP and Montclair Township and certified that he was a full-time employee. We wonder how that squares with Spiller’s $291,000 position as president of the NJEA. In any event, the AG’s office has subpoenaed Montclair Township for pay records and we now know Spiller plead the 5th while testifying in a whistleblower lawsuit on this subject.
Spiller has very close ties to Murphy. Per the Local, Murphy has described Spiller as a “dear friend,” which sounds about right given that the NJEA backed Murphy with $15.5 million while Spiller was a senior officer — $10.5 million of which went to New Direction New Jersey (NDNJ), the pro-Murphy Super PAC run by … Brendan Gill.
As it happens, Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill is also caught up in the SHBP scandal. The Star-Ledger reported that Gill also availed himself of the same SHBP coverage — with the same full-time work requirements — as the Wildwood Three and Spiller. All told, Gill received $223,257 since 2017. During this same period, Gill ran his business, BGill Group, which was paid $753,321 by NDNJ and two other NJEA-funded Super PACs. If being an Essex County Commissioner is a full-time job, Gill must have been a very busy man, indeed.
On the surface, all the cases look quite similar. The Montclair Local reported that Platkin has said he will prosecute the Wildwood Three “to the fullest extent of the law.” Will Platkin hold his boss, Gov. Murphy’s, pals to the same standard?
All New Jersey will be watching.