Russo Steps Up His Attack on Parenti and Parenti Retaliates in Somerset Sheriff’s Duel

Parenti and Russo

Republican Sheriff Candidate Bill Parenti has seen his North Plainfield taxpayer funded compensation almost double in the past two years, rising from around $150K to $290K from 2016 to 2018, said Democrats looking to hobble the Republican pick to succeed retiring Sheriff Frank Provenzano. According to the Uniform Crime Statistics provided by the North Plainfield Police Department to the NJ State Police, the town Parenti “protects” continues to have the highest rate of violent crime in the county, a point of clarification the GOP objected to by gnawin away at Democrat Darrin Russo in a statement (see below). 

“Parenti loves to talk about taxpayer rip-offs, but for some reason he’s silent about the one he’s involved in,” said Democrat Russo, Parenti’s opponent. “Over two years he extracted $270,000 in extra pay out of the people of North Plainfield, failed to do his job of protecting them from violent crime, and now he wants to be promoted to Sheriff? For what?”

In 2016 Bill Parenti received $153,388.46 as Police Chief in North Plainfield, yet took $285,506.36 in 2017 and $288,768.56 in 2018 for the same job, almost $270,000 more than his contracted pay, Russo griped. 2019 pay records are not available, so the numbers could rise to close to $400,000 if the trend continued. Parenti appears to have demanded the extra vacation and sick day payments because he was preparing for retirement, and wanted to cash out early.

“Parenti has called for me and other Franklin officers to return pay we earned doing community policing above our regular duties, pay that was approved by Parenti’s own advisor Chief Larry Roberts and cleared by the county prosecutor,” said Russo. “But Parenti is literally taking money for days he didn’t work. If he’s serious about his claims against me, Parenti needs to give the taxpayers of North Plainfield their quarter million dollars back. If he doesn’t, he’s just another political hypocrite.” 

The GOP hit back hard in a rejoinder following the Democrats’ salvo.

They noted the facts are pretty clear: Darrin Russo ripped off taxpayers and took 3 times the amount of time he was allotted. Chief Bill Parenti is doing the opposite – returning 2,700 hours to the taxpayers, as North Plainfield’s Democratic Mayor Mike Giordano, a Democrat, explains.

“There he goes again… Dishonest Darrin is lying to taxpayers. Russo, famously reprimanded by the Courts for acting “with reckless disregard for the truth,” is under fire for taking nearly three times as much union-time as he was allowed,” said Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo. “We’re not surprised Russo is lying to voters in a desperate attempt to distract from the question that has been on their minds for the past 46 days – how can we trust someone as desperate and dishonest as Darrin to enforce our laws and keep us safe?”

The GOP then referred to the reasoning by Parenti’s hometown mayor.

 “A decision was made to begin paying our brave law enforcement officers, firefighters along with all Borough employees for their accrued paid sick and vacation time. The  business administrator and I made this decision during the budget hearings several years back and place the total amount needed to fund the employees in the budget that was adopted by the council. This was done in good conscience to protect the wallets of our Borough’s hard-earning taxpayers. Not to mention, Chief Parenti has also agreed to reduce his overall paid sick and vacation time by nearly 2,700 hours,” said Mayor Michael Giordano, Jr.

Russo complained that Parenti has hung his campaign on what the Democrat calls a debunked attack on the contract under which police officers in Franklin are paid, calling it a “rip-off”. However, not only are the amounts negligible when compared to Parenti’s $270,000 rip-off, but the contract was approved and overseen by Parenti supporters and advisors. Republican Freeholder Director Brian Levine was Franklin Mayor when the contract was signed, and Police Chief Larry Roberts approved every time-card Parenti has attacked.

In September the Somerset County Prosecutor debunked Parenti’s allegations in a letter, stating that there were no “violations by any individual officer” including Darrin Russo, and that any misdeeds were done by Parenti’s so called “undersheriff” Roberts. Yet Parenti recently spent $25,000 on television commercials repeating the same lies. That letter from the Prosecutor’s office is attached. 

 “Parenti’s quarter million-dollar money grab with one foot out the door is the height of hypocrisy given his bashing of police officers in Franklin for their community policing pay,” said Peg Schaffer, Somerset County Democratic Chair. “The last thing you want in a top law enforcement official is one willing to accuse other people of his own wrongdoing.”

Instead of spending his time focused on North Plainfield while taking retirement and regular pay simultaneously, the Democratic candidate for sheriff said Parenti also spent 2016-2019 as President of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police and the Somerset County Association of Chiefs of Police, and in 2017 started building his campaign for Somerset County Sheriff. His lack of focus on the job he was paid to do twice has cost the security and safety of the people of North Plainfield he was sworn to serve.

“When I decided to run for Sheriff in 2016, I retired with honor as a police officer because I believe the citizens deserve police who are focused on them and not their next job,” said Russo. “With one foot out the door, Parenti took hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement pay, kept cashing checks for his regular pay, and is spending dozens of work hours every week campaigning while the people of North Plainfield see both their taxes and crime rates rise. How can he justify this?”

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