New report: Mercer County, NJ wasted millions in taxpayer dollars
A new report finds Mercer County paid millions in penalties & interest for late tax filings
Mercer County lawmaker expresses anger and wants to know: who dropped the ball?
A spokesperson for Mercer County says the taxpayers were “let down”
Your tax dollars hard at work.
The New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller has released a report revealing Mercer County paid almost $4.5 million in penalties and interest for delinquent tax filings and payments between 2018 and 2021.
According to the report, the Democratic-controlled county's Finance Department regularly failed to make adequate and timely payroll tax payments to both the Internal Revenue Service as well as the New Jersey Division of Taxation.
The report comes as longtime County Executive Brian Hughes faces an intra-party challenge to his seat from Assemblyman Dan Benson, splitting Democrats in the capital county.
The report finds there was no oversight
The OSC investigation found the Mercer County finance department, led by its chief financial officer, lacked basic internal financial controls; it did not have an organizational chart, written policies, or any system of checks and balances to ensure that its financial system was properly managed.
State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, said she was concerned and alarmed after hearing about what happened.
“I just want to know what took so long, why should we have to wait 3 years to find out that the county hasn’t been paying its payroll taxes? That’s deeply disturbing,” she said.
State Senator wants to know “who dropped the ball”
“I’d like to know where are the controls that should be in place. We know not only do we have the county administration but we also have a Board of County Commissioners. Where have they been for the last three years?"
Turner noted every entity in government brings in auditing firms to review the finances every year, so it’s important to determine who dropped the ball here.
“I think it’s a sad, sad situation when this goes on for 3 years and we have to pay that amount of money.”
NJ’s former labor commissioner expresses shock
New Jersey Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, the former state Labor Commissioner, said he was shocked to find out what happened.
“This is outrageous and the people should be furious that the government screwed up in so many ways,” he said.
He also said for the problem to have continued for 13 quarters is hard to imagine.
“That’s just like unbelievably unacceptable. If that was the private sector they would throw the book at that company,” he said.
The head of the finance department did not have the required credentials
During the course of the investigation, the State Comptroller’s Office also discovered the Mercer County Chief Financial Officer did not have, nor did he seek to obtain the statutorily required credentials to hold his position for the entire time he was employed by the County.
When asked to comment on the report, country spokeswoman Julie Willmot issued a statement saying Chief Fiscal Officer David Miller was fired.
“The report reveals circumstances and events which the County thoroughly investigated through special outside counsel," Willmot's statement says. "Those findings led to an immediate referral of the matter to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and is now in their hands.”
“Although the OSC report admonishes the Administration for poor oversight of Mr. Miller and the department he managed, the report, finding nothing to the contrary, does not dispute that the Administration and the County are themselves victims of Mr. Miller’s failure to maintain the proper credentials and licenses for his job. The Administration and the taxpayers were let down by Mr. Miller. We are doing our level best to learn from this experience and taking steps to avoid their recurrence and to recover the expenses occasioned by Mr. Miller’s conduct and to hold him accountable.”
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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