Sullivan doles out ‘stipends’ at UCUA

UNION COUNTY — The Union County Utilities Authority board had some questions about unapproved stipends paid to employees since the Union County Improvement Authority moved into the UCUA Rahway facility last September.

At issue is why multiple UCUA employees were paid stipends by UCUA Executive Daniel Sullivan after the two authorities temporarily merged last September and why Sullivan failed to have the UCUA board approve the expenditure through resolution.

According to information obtained by LocalSource, Sullivan allocated himself an additional $2,500 a month stipend, or $30,000 a year, effectively giving himself a raise without approval from the UCUA board to bring his total annual salary to $186,000. In addition, Sullivan approved an additional $50,000 for other UCUA employees, bringing the grand total to $80,000 a year, again without prior approval through resolution.

The UCIA board did agree to a $15,000 monthly payment to the UCUA, or $180,000 a year, but nothing was written in stone about how that money should be spent. Specifically, nothing was written as to whether any of that money could be paid to UCUA employees who have taken on additional work since the UCIA employees moved into the UCUA facilities in Rahway.

After the former UCIA executive director abruptly resigned, a shared services agreement between the UCIA and UCUA was signed Aug. 21, 2013. According to this agreement, the UCIA agreed to share receptionist, secretarial, comptroller and clerk services with the UCUA. The contract, though, did not indicate whether employees of the UCUA should or could be compensated for this extra work.

It is unclear how the board heard about the stipend payments, but at a UCUA meeting last week, the board adjourned to closed session in order to decide how to handle the situation.

Later when they returned, the board approved a resolution to stop the stipend payments and hire an outside attorney William Maderer and his law firm Saiber LLC to conduct an investigation into the matter.

The board approved a contract up to $17,500 without public bidding because the attorney has the training and knowledge required to handle this particular situation.

The resolution passed by the UCUA at its Feb. 14 meeting explained that beginning in September of 2013 and continuing until January, monthly payments were made to certain UCUA employees as “remuneration” for the additional responsibilities and work they were expected to take on in connection with the agreement made with the UCIA.

The resolution indicated that because the UCUA board did not have enough information to make an “informed determination” about the matter and has an obligation “to undertake appropriate due diligence,” the decision to hire an outside consultant to investigate was decided.