A new report by New Jersey's State Commission of Investigation exposes a common practice of "official" or "release" time and has rightly made headlines. See here, here, here, here, and here. The practice entails paying public employees to work for their union. Over a five year period, the report found, the Garden State paid more than $30 million for public workers to conduct union business.
In Newark, a handful of police officers and firefighters that received release time cost taxpayers $7.8 million since 2006. The report also rightly notes the almost complete lack of public transparency about these sorts of arrangements, which often emerge from collective bargaining agreements. Not only do governments in many places subsidize public sector unions by collecting members' dues for them but they also pay some of their staff. Other interest groups can only dream of such support. For a little background, I've written about this issue before here on PSI.