New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram removed the interim director of the state agency responsible for distributing money to victims of violent crime in response to an ongoing investigation that found numerous questionable payouts, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Edward Werner, whose 11-year-old son was murdered in 1997, will continued to be paid his salary of $123,777 as the investigation continues.
Inspector General Mary Jane Cooper began investigating at the request of the Treasury Department, which cut checks for the crime victims but did not have access to the office’s files to determine whether the payouts were appropriate. The agency is permitted to pay victims of violent crime up to $25,000 in compensation and to reimburse them for medical bills, counseling, lost wages and relocation expenses. It distributed $13.5 million in claims last year alone. An inspector general’s investigation found that the office made payments without first obtaining proof that people were victims of violent crime, and in other cases exceeded the maximum benefits it could pay. Previously known as the Victims of Crime Compensation Board, the agency was criticized by good-government groups as being composed of politically connected members who earned $100,000-plus salaries but did a poor job of dispensing funds.