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