Gov’s Office takes issue with AP salary story

The governor’s office tonight repudiated an Associated Press story reporting a nearly $2 million increase by Gov. Chris Christie in administrative salary costs over his predecessor Gov. Jon Corzine. 

“The AP story erroneously reported that the Corzine Administration salary total was only $7 million,” said Christie Press Secretary Michael Drewniak. “In fact, there were a large number of employees not included in the Corzine Administration numbers. Adding those employees – so-called ‘mobility’ personnel on loan to the Governor’s Office from other departments – would bring the total salaries to more than $8.3 million for the Corzine Administration. The difference covers at least a dozen of these “mobility” personnel utilized during the Corzine Administration, with a total salary of more than $1.1 million between them.

That still puts the Christie administration – total salary $8.9 million for 117 employees – above Corzine’s by $600,000.

Drewniak argued that the Christie Administration included and identified by name all its employees – “including approximately 15 people on mobility from other agencies – when it posted the administration salaries two weeks ago on the Governor’s Office website, which was also the identical information provided to the Asbury Park Press at the same time.”

“We have gone to great lengths to be open and transparent in all regards, including in the reporting of salary and personnel,” said Drewniak.  “In the AP’s haste to get out of the gate first, it did so with a story that was half-reported, full of errors of fact and omission and despite administration warnings that it was wrong. We hope the AP will retract its story.”

Drewniak also objected to numbers in the AP story that reported a disparity between administration personnel making more than a hundred grand – 34 in the Christie administration, compared to 17 in the Corzine administration. 

“In fact, there were at least an additional nine employees earning more than $100,000,” Dreniak said. “Again, the story failed to include ‘mobility’ employees or seek to verify all 2009 salaries in the Corzine Administration. Also, in comparing the total salary numbers between the administrations, the AP story failed to note that Governor Christie receives a salary of $175,000, as allowed by law.  His predecessor declined a salary due to his independent wealth.

“The story also doesn’t take into account the new position of Lieutenant Governor, which has no budget. The Governor’s Office provides some staff and resources to support the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which by statute does not include any staff.

Finally, Governor Corzine was unmarried during his term and, therefore, had no staff for a First Lady.  The First Lady, Mary Pat Christie, has two staff members in the Office of Protocol.”

Full text of Drewniak’s statement:

An Associated Press story late today made several false statements and faulty assumptions about the Governor’s Office payroll costs under Governor Chris Christie when comparing it against payroll of the prior administration.

The AP story falsely stated that Governor Christie’s payroll was nearly $2 million more than that of the prior administration.  Payroll and staff reports on both the Governor’s Office website and given to the Asbury Park Press as part of an OPRA request show the total salary of all employees to be $8.9 million for 117 employees. 

The AP story erroneously reported that the Corzine Administration salary total was only $7 million.  In fact, there were a large number of employees not included in the Corzine Administration numbers.  Adding those employees – so-called “mobility” personnel on loan to the Governor’s Office from other departments – would bring the total salaries to more than $8.3 million for the Corzine Administration.  The difference covers at least a dozen of these “mobility” personnel utilized during the Corzine Administration, with a total salary of more than $1.1 million between them.

In contrast, the Christie Administration included and identified by name all its employees – including approximately 15 people on mobility from other agencies – when it posted the administration salaries two weeks ago on the Governor’s Office website, which was also the identical information provided to the Asbury Park Press at the same time.

“We have gone to great lengths to be open and transparent in all regards, including in the reporting of salary and personnel,” said Press Secretary Michael Drewniak.  “In the AP’s haste to get out of the gate first, it did so with a story that was half-reported, full of errors of fact and omission and despite administration warnings that it was wrong.  We hope the AP will retract its story.”

The AP story also reported that the Corzine Administration had only 17 people earning salaries of $100,000 or more.  In fact, there were at least an additional nine employees earning more than $100,000.  Again, the story failed to include “mobility” employees or seek to verify all 2009 salaries in the Corzine Administration.

Also, in comparing the total salary numbers between the administrations, the AP story failed to note that Governor Christie receives a salary of $175,000, as allowed by law.  His predecessor declined a salary due to his independent wealth.

The story also doesn’t take into account the new position of Lieutenant Governor, which has no budget.  The Governor’s Office provides some staff and resources to support the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which by statute does not include any staff.

Finally, Governor Corzine was unmarried during his term and, therefore, had no staff for a First Lady.  The First Lady, Mary Pat Christie, has two staff members in the Office of Protocol.

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