CommunityPam's House Blend

More on Laurel Hester

Part two of Michael Jensen’s interview is up:

It’s Laurel Hester’s Wonderful Life, Part Two: The Five Grinches of Ocean County

Laurel Hester is the NJ police officer with terminal cancer who is fighting the bigoted county leadership to leave her pension to her partner. Mike said in an email: “The Republican freeholders actually tell Laurel she gets to collect a lot of money, but she has to die real soon to qualify. Nice, huh?”

The county’s five (conservative, “pro-family”) Republican freeholders: John C. Bartlett, John P. Kelly, James F. Lacey, Gerry P. Little, and Joseph H. Vicari.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (where the comments rage on), one of the Ocean County Freeholders actually claimed sparing the “sanctity of marriage” as a reason to deny Hester’s ability to leave her pension to her partner. Then it was because the county couldn’t absorb the cost of addressing same-sex partnerships on the matter. Then blame was placed on the state’s pension system — it couldn’t handle the burden. Mike reports that Ocean County administrator Alan Avery later had to admit that the county never studied the issue and had no figures to back up the claim at the time.

And then there’s this bullsh*t —

This dodge particularly bothers the freeholders’ critics who note that each of the five men are entitled to generous pensions. And not everyone approves of how New Jersey politicians come by those pensions, including the five freeholders. The Ocean County Observer, in an editorial excoriating the freeholders’ treatment of Laurel, said, “Never mind that the freeholders have demonstrated stupendous greed through their own history of feeding at the public trough, often in jobs that helped boost their own pensions.”

“Tacking” and “kiting” are two terms to describe how public officials in New Jersey can boost their pensions. Tacking involves acquiring a variety of part-time, but high paying jobs that, taken together, can add up to a generous pension. Kiting refers to the fact that New Jersey pensions are based on a person’s three highest years of income. It is not unknown for public officials to give each other high paying jobs for three years to create–or “kite”–the highest pension possible.

Laurel Hester never sought to enrich herself at the expense of others. She never “tacked” jobs together or attempted to “kite” herself to a better pension. Instead, she did her job for twenty-four years and all she wants is what she earned. When asked how she feels about the freeholders citing New Jersey’s troubled pension system as a reason to deny her request, Laurel says, “It’s outrageous. It’s a well-known fact that the pension system has suffered many egregious abuses. I am not one of them. And I resent being lumped in with them.”

Also, Mike notes in an earlier post that Ocean County, as a coastal community, is heavily dependent on tourism. You can pass along that you’ve heard about the bigoted practices of these Freeholders, and won’t be making any vacation plans to the county. If nothing else, these thugs know about lining their wallets — they understand the power of the purse and bad PR. It’s important to couch your displeasure in this context because emails and calls from outside the area disagreeing with the decision on principle alone are being ignored.

So if you live in the Northeast, or might possibly be visiting New Jersey next year why not let the county you’re going to choose to visit a place that doesn’t discriminate.

You can do so by writing or calling:
Barbara W. Steele
Ocean County Public Affairs Department
P.O. Box 2191
Toms River, NJ 08754-2191
Phone: 732/506-5050

Or E-mail at

Read other previous posts on the Laurel Hester case at The Big Gay Picture.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding