Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland Counties Munic­i­pal Joint Insur­ance Rec­og­nized for Out­stand­ing Transparency

Feb­ru­ary 18, 2011– The Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland Counties Munic­i­pal Joint Insur­ance Fund (TRICO JIF) was fea­tured in a report from the New Jer­sey State Comptroller’s Office that ana­lyzed the online trans­parency of the state’s local author­i­ties and commissions.

The TRICO JIF was among seven local agen­cies — out of 587 — to be able to answer affir­ma­tively to six basic ques­tions related to how much infor­ma­tion about their oper­a­tions was imme­di­ately avail­able to the public.

The ques­tions included whether or not the agency had a web­site and whether or not that site pro­vided finan­cial reports, names of offi­cers, con­tact infor­ma­tion, a mis­sion state­ment and infor­ma­tion on when and where meet­ings were to be held.

I am very pleased that the TRICO JIF was sin­gled out as one of the hand­ful of local agen­cies in the entire state that sat­is­fied the comptroller’s cri­te­ria for trans­parency,” said Paul J. Miola, the Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland Counties Munic­i­pal Joint Insur­ance Fund Exec­u­tive Direc­tor. “We have worked hard to make our pro­gram open and acces­si­ble.  The Joint Insur­ance Fund mem­bers deserve credit for direct­ing us to be one of the most trans­par­ent agen­cies out there.”

The orga­ni­za­tions were defined as local agen­cies with inde­pen­dent fis­cal author­ity and respon­si­bil­ity for the expen­di­ture of pub­lic funds. They included fire dis­tricts, soil con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts, urban enter­prise zone devel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tions, pub­lic hous­ing author­i­ties, joint insur­ance funds, regional health com­mis­sions, county park com­mis­sions, and work­force invest­ment boards, among other local author­i­ties and commissions.

Of the seven local agen­cies that suc­cess­fully met all cri­te­ria estab­lished by the New Jer­sey State Comptroller’s Office, only three Joint Insur­ance Funds dis­played the level of trans­parency called for in the report.  The Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland Counties Munic­i­pal Joint Insur­ance Fund, as well as the other two Joint Insur­ance Funds who met all cri­te­ria, is admin­is­tered by Arthur J. Gal­lagher Risk Man­age­ment Ser­vices in Marl­ton, New Jer­sey.  Joint Insur­ance Funds per­mit local gov­ern­ment units to jointly insure for fire, lia­bil­ity, auto­mo­bile, and work­ers com­pen­sa­tion risks and do so for less than half the expenses required by tra­di­tional insurers.

Of 185 fire dis­tricts across the state, fewer than half main­tained a web­site. Of the 79 that did have a web­site, only four posted com­plete meet­ing infor­ma­tion, and only three posted finan­cial reports.

Only 3 per­cent of the state’s nearly 600 local agen­cies post bud­get infor­ma­tion online, cast­ing a shroud over their finan­cial activ­i­ties, accord­ing to the report.

When you have so many dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment units spend­ing pub­lic dol­lars, it becomes dif­fi­cult for even the most atten­tive mem­bers of the pub­lic to mon­i­tor how their money is being spent,” Comp­trol­ler Matt Boxer said in a statement.

Too often the pub­lic never hears about these local agen­cies until scan­dals unfold. But we pay for these agen­cies every day — when we pay tolls, when we pay our water bills and when we pay our prop­erty taxes.”

New Jer­sey has taken steps toward greater trans­parency on pub­lic spend­ing. Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill last month requir­ing the Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Affairs to post the bud­get of any munic­i­pal­ity or county that doesn’t have its own website.

But Boxer and some law­mak­ers said there’s much more work to be done.

Sen. Loretta Wein­berg, a Demo­c­rat from Bergen County, is push­ing leg­is­la­tion to make all gov­ern­ment agen­cies com­ply with rules on pub­lic records and meet­ings, as well as post finan­cial infor­ma­tion online.

This layer of shadow gov­ern­ment spends tax­payer dol­lars in secret, with lit­tle over­sight or pub­lic scrutiny, and inflates the cost of liv­ing on the rest of us,” she said in a statement.

Jon Moran, a leg­isla­tive ana­lyst at the New Jer­sey League of Munic­i­pal­i­ties, said some of the agen­cies cited in the report help towns share ser­vices. “All we hear from the state is we need to coop­er­ate more,” he said.  Joint Insur­ance Funds rep­re­sent the most suc­cess­ful exam­ple of shared ser­vices in New Jersey.

Moran also said it costs money to main­tain pub­lic websites.

There’s no ques­tion they could do a bet­ter job get­ting infor­ma­tion on the web,” he said. “But at what cost? And what’s the demand?”

For more infor­ma­tion on the TRICO JIF, please contact:

Paul J. Miola, CPCU, ARM Exec­u­tive Direc­tor
P: (856) 446‑9130

Paul For­lenza, Deputy Exec­u­tive Direc­tor
P: (856) 446‑9135