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Township Attorney's Employment Terms Questioned

Washington Township officials said they would consult the IRS to decide if the township attorney should be a salaried employee or an indpendent contractor.

Washington Township Attorney Kenneth Poller's status as a salaried employee may change, depending on a ruling from the IRS.

The Washington Township Council approved the year's salary ordinance during their meeting Monday, which includes an allocated $66,529 for the township attorney plus an additional $135 per hour for services in courts and other special projects.

A report from the state comptroller's office released last month found "widespread improper participation in the state pension system among attorneys and other professionals working as independent contractors for local governments."

Many towns in New Jersey failed to comply with a 2007 state law which was designed to limit independent contractors from receiving state pension benefits, according to the report.

At the previous council meeting, Councilman Fred Goetz voted against introducing the salary ordinance because of a conflict with the 2007 law.

"This practice has been going on in the township and in many other towns for many years so as to entitle certain 'professionals' to health benefits and an increased pension (at a detriment to the taxpayers), and to make it difficult for the public to discern clearly what such individuals are being actually paid," Goetz wrote in an email to reporters after the previous meeting.

Poller said that the township attorney had been an employee, rather than a contractor, since at least the early 1970s.

Township Administrator Catherine Navarro-Steinel said she planned to call for the IRS to make a ruling on the issue. If the IRS decides Poller cannot be a salaried employee, they will draw up a contract, she said.

"We'll abide by the ruling," Navarro-Steinel said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

resident August 07, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Poller should be on a consulting basis and paid by the hour. He should NOT be entitled to benefits at the expense of the tax payers. He is nothing more that a figure head and has not protected or helped defend this town in any way. USELESS

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