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TRENTON, NJ—Margaret Brennan, the longtime Treasurer and Comptroller of the Middlesex County Utilities Authority will continue recieving a pension, even after she was caught stealing $57,000 from the public agency.
The Utilities Authority provides wastewater and solid waste management for most of Middlesex County.
As we reported previously, Brennan pleaded guility to theft and avoided jailtime thanks to a lenient sentence from Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Dennis Nieves.
Brennan retired in July 2014, shortly after a bank had reported irregularities with the agency's accounts to authorities. By the end of the year, Brennan admitted to embezzling the funds by writing herself checks.
She earned more than $150,000 salary in the high-level position at the MCUA.
But, throughout the case and its aftermath, Brennan has been collecting a monthly pension of $6,042.
In November, the board of directors for the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) pension fund voted to modify her pension payments, so that they would not be boosted by the time she had been stealing.
According to a source familiar with public pensions, it is very rare that a public worker's entire pension is taken, even if they are convicted of serious crimes. Usually, the pension system uses an approach that compensates the person for their years of "honorable" service, but not their years of "dishonorable" service.
"The PERS Board on November 4, 2015, forfeited service and salary from November 1, 2012 to the end of her employment on July 1, 2014. This was due to criminal charges regarding 'Theft by Unlawful Taking,'" confirmed Christopher Santarelli of the NJ Division of Pension and Benefits.
So, instead of her pension being based on 28 years of service, her pension will be based on a little over 26 years. She will have to re-pay the pension system for the difference in the payments she has already received.
"She resigned from employment with MCUA; therefore, no administrative charges were filed by the employer, only criminal charges," said Santarelli.
According to the official story, Brennan was charged in September 2014 after an investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO) determined the defendant took the funds in various amounts between November 20, 2012 and June 16, 2014.
Brennan was originally slated to spend 364 days in jail after a plea deal was reached with prosecutors. But Judge Nieves lowered her sentence to probation, something county prosecutor Andrew Carey said was a "slap in the face."