Connecticut has a controversial history of “double dippers,” retired state officials with lucrative pensions being hired back to make even more money off taxpayers. Our latest example is also a double-state double-dipper: the new transportation commissioner, James P. Redeker.
Redeker is currently pulling in $104,520.72 a year in pension money from the state of New Jersey. Gov. Dannel Malloy last month named Redeker as Connecticut’s latest transportation chief with a salary of $175,000.
That makes his combined public income from taxpayers in both states almost $280,000 per year. (Of course, his wife’s salary as a professor and an associate dean with the Yale School of Nursing would be above and beyond Redeker's pension and salary.)
Asked for a comment on Redeker’s double-dipping income, Malloy’s press secretary, Juliet Manalan, offered this emailed reply:
“With respect to Commissioner Redeker-- He earned a pension from another state, so he should be entitled to receive it. He is earning every penny of his salary in Connecticut and we are delighted to have him here.”
Malloy, as it happens, is only getting a measly $150,000 a year as governor.
The state Department of Transportation’s press officer says Redeker declined to comment for this story.
Redeker is also getting a higher salary than either of his most recent predecessors. Former DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie was making $169,745 annually, while Jeffrey Parker (who replaced Marie) was getting $148,000 as interim commissioner.
According to a source who was present, Redeker joked about his New Jersey pension during a state Transportation Strategy Board meeting last year. He allegedly quipped that it was a good thing he was getting that pension because, in Redeker’s opinion, Connecticut didn’t pay its deputy commissioners enough to be able to afford this high-cost-of-living state.
Redeker, 57, has had a rather meteoric rise at our often-troubled state Department of Transportation. In fact, his promotions had a lot to do with the rapid-fire turnover at the top of the DOT’s chain of command. He is now the tenth person to occupy the transportation commissioner’s office in the past decade, a period when the agency has been hit with repeated scandals involving corruption, misjudgements, cost overruns and long delays.
After more than 30 years with New Jersey Transit, Redeker retired in 2008 with the title of assistant executive director of policy, technology and customer service. That same year he joined Connecticut’s DOT as head of the agency’s public transit operations.
In less than 24 months, as a result of the departure of a commissioner and several other top DOT officials, Redeker jumped up to the post of deputy commissioner with an annual pay of $145,000. In March of this year, Parker departed, the governor named Redeker as interim head of the DOT.
Malloy said at that time he was asking Redeker to hold down the job for a while so Malloy could conduct a “nationwide search” for someone who could come in and put the transportation department on the right track. In August, Malloy gave up on his far-ranging quest and announced that, “It turns out the right person was here in our own backyard.”
It also turns out that Redeker’s making quite a bit more than the $140,735-a-year base salary for DOT commissioner listed in the state Register and Manual.
In 2009, the issue of double-dipping by retired Connecticut state employees triggered a load of controversy.
More than 3,800 state workers took early retirement that year as part of a plan to cut state payroll costs. The uproar began when it was reported that more than 500 of those employees had been hired back on a temporary basis by the agencies they’d just left, which meant the state was paying out millions in both pension and renewed salaries to those folks.
Then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell responded to the controversy by issuing an executive order designed to “sharply curtail” the rehiring of recently retired state workers. Her order limited those double-dippers to just two 120-day contracts each, and her staff said they would be harshly reviewing all requests for such contracts. Presumably Rell's restrictions wouldn't have applied to Redeker's out-of-state pension situation.
Lucrative pensions and high-paying state salaries have also been in the news in 2010 and again this year as the state struggled with massive deficits and negotiated tough concessions deals with state employee unions to help balance the budget.