Gov. Chris Christie didn’t miss an opportunity to blast Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford while at a town hall meeting Wednesday in Morris County — and Langford fired back, saying governor always “puts his foot in his mouth.”
Christie was talking about reforming terminal-leave payment and how people call these payouts for municipal employees’ unused sick and vacation time “boat checks” because they’re big enough to purchase a boat. Christie has sought to tighten these payouts.
“How about Atlantic City? This just came out in the last 24 hours. Now Atlantic City is one of the worst-run, the most bankrupt, ridiculous municipal governments in America,” Christie told the audience, according to the Associated Press.
“I mean that place is, I mean that municipal government is one of the most God-awful, wasteful municipal governments in America. They have a mayor who has no idea what he’s doing. Now this place is going, the government’s going down the chute. This guy just voted himself a $16,000 raise. Yeah, a $16,000 raise for Lorenzo Langford. America is the greatest country in the world if that can happen, I tell ya.”
City Council approved an ordinance last April that required the mayor's salary be at least 1 percent greater than the highest-paid civilian city employee. The pay raise, which took effect last month, boosted Langford's $103,000 base pay about 15 percent, to $118,874 — 1 percent more than the $117,697 salary paid to Chief Municipal Judge Bruce Ward, a former city solicitor.
“Opportunity for everybody,” Christie continued. “But in that government, 15 public employees just retired. With a total in sick-pay payouts for these folks: $2.2 million dollars. $2.2 million dollars of taxpayer, property tax dollars. You know, it’s crazy.”
The Press of Atlantic City reported the payouts in Tuesday’s edition.
In an emailed statement issued shortly after Christie’s statements at Wednesday’s meeting in Montville were reported, Langford said “the governor has proven yet again that every time he opens his mouth concerning the mayor of Atlantic City, he puts his foot in his mouth.”
“His latest accusation that Atlantic City government is one of the worst in the nation underscores why his legacy as governor is one of hypocrisy,” Langford said. “This from a governor who presides over the state that has the highest property taxes, as well as the highest auto insurance rates in the nation, and hasn’t put forth a viable plan to eradicate this distinction.”
Langford also said that New Jersey’s urban areas are “war zones” because Christie “has done nothing to stop illegal handguns from coming into his state.”
“And as for wasteful spending and incompetence, wasn’t it he who was flying around in a state police helicopter attending his son’s baseball games in Bergen County on the taxpayers’ dime?” Langford continued.
“And wasn’t it his administration that dropped the ball on receiving $400 million in educational funding from the federal government? $400 million!!!
“But here’s the kicker, for three years, the state comptroller’s office had physically occupied City Hall in Atlantic City,” Langford continued. “They departed only when I straightened out the mess that I inherited; leaving me with a list of corrective action deficiencies to be addressed. All 40 of the issues have been successfully addressed. Moreover, for the last three years the city has been under the watchful eye of the state’s Division of Community Affairs. Therefore, if Atlantic City is one of the most wasteful governments in America, then what does that say about the Christie administration, (which) has oversight? That’s tantamount to calling his own subordinates incompetent. Which begs the question: are they incompetent, or is he just full of baloney?”
The Associated press contributed to this report.
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