Occhipinti plays the city benefits card

Occhipinti for Council announces:

Occhipinti calls on Lenz to return $4,600 to Hoboken taxpayers
Hoboken 4th ward city council candidate Tim Occhipinti called on Michael Lenz to return $4,600 in incentives he receives for opting out of the county health plan and having Hoboken taxpayers pay for his health benefits. Lenz, who, in addition to making $24,000 as a part-time city councilman, makes approximately $70,000 at his county patronage job. He switched to the city health benefits plan when he was appointed to the city council.
At last week’s debate, Lenz refused to disclose how much he collected from this scheme. The facts are that Lenz saves $1,000 by not having to pay for county health benefits (the required 1.5% of his approx. $70,000 salary), and then collects an additional $3,600 from the county’s incentive program, which provides payments to those who choose to opt out of the county health plan. (This information obtained via Open Public Records Act request from Rita Holleran, Office Services Manager, Hudson County Personnel Division, 201.795.6255.)
“Michael Lenz should give this money back to taxpayers,” said Occhipinti. “For a man who preaches to everyone else about ethics, this is especially shady. This is a cynical manipulation of public benefits, but it’s a perfect example of the real Michael Lenz. Do as I say, not as I do. Give the money back, Mr. Lenz. Do the right thing and write a check to the taxpayers of Hoboken today.”
Occhipinti holds a private sector job and pays into his company health benefits. He said he will join several other current council members in not taking city health benefits. “I’ll save taxpayers $23,000 my first day on the job by not asking them to foot the bill for my health benefits,” he said. “Michael Lenz is costing taxpayers close to $115,000 in salary and benefits. On top of that, he gets to put $4,600 in his pocket. When you think of so many people struggling just to meet their COBRA health plan payments, this is just wrong. He once called himself a reformer? That’s not reform. That’s business as usual.”

UPDATE: The Lenz for Council Campaign offered this response:  

“Councilman Lenz is receiving the benefits to which he is legally entitled and which are available to every other member of the City Council.  Tim’s allies, Council people Mike Russo, Nino Giacchi and Beth Mason all have accepted those benefits.  At the debate last week, Mr. Occhipinti refused to say whether he would support eliminating benefits for all City Council members including his friends and allies like Mike Russo, Nino Giacci and Beth Mason, saying the only issue was himself and Mike Lenz.  We can debate what the rules should be, but the same rules must apply to everyone, not just to Mike Lenz and Mr. Occhipinti.  

Once again, Tim is trying to attack Mike Lenz and distract from the real issues and Mike’s record of cutting taxes, fixing flooding, and working to bring a Southwest park.  In only a year in office, Mike has made real accomplishments while Tim continues to distract and distort.”


Talking Ed Note: The logic here by the Occhipinti campaign is dizzying.  Now MSV has concerns about part time council members receiving fully paid health benefits but this for another day. For the moment the idea that Councilman Mike Lenz needs to forego accepting the option of taking health benefits as any other member of Hoboken’s City Council is frankly disingenuous.  

It’s too bad the Occhipinti campaign feels compelled to raise the issue in a limited way.  There’s a real opportunity to raise the issue fairly, but it needs to be applied equally – to the City Council as a whole.  

Unfortunately, there’s been a line of cheap politics streaming from the Occhipinti campaign and frankly Tim Occhipinti should put his foot down and insist it stop instead of signing off on it.  

If any Council member obtains a cash benefit not to elect an option to participate in their company’s respective health plan, that’s the business of the individual and their employer.  Just because Mike Lenz holds a county position, doesn’t mean he should be abused with this kind of cheap shot.

Tim Occhipinti you said you were focused on integrity and professionalism.  This release qualifies as neither.  

The Editor

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