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‘Double dippers’ in New Jersey draw selective ire of Gov. Chris Christie

Joe DiVincenzo styles himself affectionately as “Joe D,” the Essex County executive who has happily given bipartisan credence to New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s calls for far-reaching reform to the state’s public employee pension system. The New York Times profiled DiVincenzo in January, leading with an illustration of his warm relationship with the governor:

[he] flips open his ringing cellphone and says “Hey, Gov,” raising a finger to pause an interview as he steps from the room. “We talk a lot,” he says later, grinning broadly, when asked about Chris Christie. “A lot.”

So when the 58 year-old DiVencenzo was found to have quietly “retired” in August in order to collect a $68,856 pension along with his regular $156,207 salary, a practice known as “double dipping,” Christie’s response was notably muted.

“Let’s not just isolate one person on this. Everyone else is doing it,” he said. Of course, “everyone else” hadn’t been advocating for passage of the very law that would’ve made the practice illegal. Asked if Joe “Double D” should be characterized as greedy, a charge the governor has leveled at other allegedly rapacious public employees, Christie responded, “The fact of the matter is everyone defines greedy in different ways.”

But when 76 year-old Lorretta Weinberg, a state senator who ran against Christie as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2009, voluntarily disclosed that she had begun to collect a pension to supplement her $49,000 salary after losing much of her savings in the Bernie Madoff scandal, Christie said she deserves a “hypocrisy award.”

“She is the queen of double standards,” Christie charged. “No matter how long you’ve been around here, the hypocrisy meter has to tilt on her.”

Last night, union leaders held a mock “retirement party” for DiVincenzo, wishing him “success and happiness” on his “well-deserved retirement.”

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