Lydia Robles, who dropped out of the mayoral race earlier in the year to back mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ campaign, has apparently been rewarded with a city job, according to sources.
City officials were mum on the details of the hiring on Thursday afternoon. The mayor’s office said the hiring was done by business administrator Nellie Pou.
The business administrator did not respond to a message seeking her comment for this story on Thursday.
Pou on Monday said Robles was hired last week as an auditor in the finance department.
Charles Scannella, who previously held the same title, was making $82,000, according to city records.
Robles, who abruptly dropped out of the race just weeks after picking up petitions, lent her full support behind the mayor, at times issuing political attacks against the mayor’s main rival in the race, 6th Ward councilman Andre Sayegh. Robles also spent a great deal of time in Torres’ campaign headquarter on Market Street actively recruiting residents to the mayor’s cause.
“It does appear to be a form of political patronage,” said Sayegh. Sources have said Torres is rewarding Robles for her help in securing the city’s executive seat in May.
The councilman said the position requires serious qualifications. Robles holds a psychology degree from Montclair State University and has worked as a social worker. “I would like to see her resume to see if she is qualified,” said Sayegh.
Robles did not respond to a message seeking her comments for this story. Pou said Robles is qualified for the position. When asked if Robles has auditing experience, Pou said, “Yes, she does. She’s very qualified to do the job.”
Pou provided Robles’ resume which shows she worked at Newark based Arce Renovations as an internal auditor from 2005-2014. She also worked at Sylvan Corporation of Englewood Cliffs as a billing supervisor from 2005 to 2008 – part of the job included auditing.
Pou denounced the previous article which stated Robles was hired as an assistant budget officers saying it was “totally inaccurate.”
Scannella, her predecessor, had a degree in accounting and worked approximately 38 years in the city’s finance department.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about it. I don’t know what kind of experience she has,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, who serves as the chairman of the city council’s finance committee.
Morris said he is not questioning the administration’s authority to hire, but he is questioning Robles’ qualification. “I do question whether or not she is qualified, when I know there are qualified internal folks who meet those qualifications and whether or not they were given some consideration,” said Morris. “She may be extremely qualified, I don’t know.”
Indeed, no one does. Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, expressed shock and surprise, after being told about the hiring. “It might be a problem,” said Akhtaruzzaman.
Before hiring, it is typical for the city to obtain waver from the state’s department of community affairs, the agency that oversees the city’s finances. “We approved the hiring of that position provided the person filling the vacancy was consistent with all Civil Service Regulations and had the qualifications required by the title,” said Emike Omogbai, spokesperson for the department.
“We have to have qualified people or we don’t move forward,” added Morris.
Corrections: The previous article stated Robles was hired as an assistant budget officers – she was hired as an auditor.