By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog
As the pension reform issue heats up in New Jersey, the most prominent double-dipper in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is stepping down today.
Lou Goetting has collected $140,000 a year as the governor’s deputy chief of staff in addition to an $88,860 pension as a retired state employee – a fact that repeatedly embarrassed Christie as he calls for changes in a state retirement system that faces a deficit in excess of $100 billion.
Ironically, Christie hired Goetting — pronounced “getting” – in 2010 as a top adviser on cutting the cost of government.
“He’s been a great friend to the governor and every one of us,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak in a statement. “We will miss him in the State House.”
In addition to his expertise on fiscal issues, Goetting displayed skill in guiding more than $1 million in pension and severance pay from public coffers into his pockets.
Goetting began his career as a municipal administrator. He rose to deputy state treasurer under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman before taking a position as a vice president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, now part of Rutgers University.
In 2003, Goetting took an early retirement when he was forced out of UMDNJ. School officials refuse to disclose the reason for his departure.
As part of a negotiated settlement, Goetting received $180,525 in severance pay from UMDNJ — plus a company car, cell phone, laptop, secretarial services and other perks. He also began drawing a state pension.
Goetting soon began his first round of double-dipping. He was hired by Brookdale Community College in Monmouth County as an executive vice president and returned to the public payroll in August 2003 at a salary that reached $162,000 a year.
After four years at Brookdale, Goetting had worn out his welcome. He signed a severance agreement with the college in October 2007.
The deal included a payout of nearly $190,000 plus perks. Goetting received a six-month paid leave of absence at full salary ($81,000), a one-year “transitional sabbatical” at half-salary ($81,000) and $27,500 in vacation pay. He was allowed to keep his college email, cell phone and laptop computer until June 30, 2009, his official day of separation with Brookdale.
The college also agreed to provide Goetting with a letter of reference — and promised not to say anything “disparaging” about him.
Brookdale claimed it had no record of why Goetting was terminated.
Christie has publicly opposed severance deals similar to the ones Goetting received from Brookdale and UMDNJ. Four years ago, the governor issued Executive Order No. 15, which sought to halt the “wasteful and extravagant use of taxpayer funds” on “golden parachutes” paid to outgoing executives of state authorities.
Goetting is not eligible to collect a second state pension for his most recent employment. He plans to work in the private sector as a public policy consultant, according to Drewniak. No one has been named to replace Goetting on the governor’s senior staff.
Christie is expected to propose a new round of pension reforms next month based on the findings of a special commission the governor picked to study the state’s retirement system.