Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ department head appointments were slated for confirmation by the city’s governing body on Tuesday evening, but after seeing the salary ranges for each appointee council members postponed the confirmations.
“I see that there’s a salary range, I don’t recall us addressing that prior,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
McKoy made the observation after looking at the resolutions which included salary ranges. For example, the business administrator’s range was set at $92,000 to $130,000.
“We have not yet determined whether we’re going to work with salary ranges,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. He said ranges certainly give flexibility to the administration as it assigns the salaries, but there is no ordinance allowing for such ranges.
Morris said he did not see how the administration could set salary ranges absent an ordinance. He read from a salary ordinance from 2006 which set salaries in a specific manner for each director rather than setting ranges.
“I’d think that we’d have preceded this process with a discussion on salary ranges,” said McKoy. Morris called for a compensation discussion before the council approves the directors with salary ranges.
City officials discussed passing a salary ordinance during the summer, but that has yet to happen.
“We also need to have a conversation about longevity, what does longevity means moving forward. The state has said to us longevity is going to be discontinued,” said Morris.
Morris said he needs to know what that discontinuation means: are employees grandfathered in to longevity? Did longevity stop and freeze when the state made its decision or does it continue accruing?
Acting business administrator Nellie Pou said the resolutions, which include salary ranges for each of the directors, will serve the same purpose as a salary ordinance.
Torres said his administration will bring forth a salary ordinance very soon.
“The numbers that are on the salary ordinance will be the same numbers that are on the same individual appointment resolutions,” said Torres. He said the dollar amounts will remain the same.
Torres said the salary ordinance was his idea. He said it’s required under state law. The mayor stated that the council is just seeking additional information that his administration is willing to provide.
Council president Julio Tavarez added that ranges are not enough, the council would like more granularity to see when a director receives $92,000, when $100,000, and so forth until the maximum is reached.
Up for confirmation
Eight directors were up for approval including Pou. She has been employed with the city for 39 years serving as an assistant business administrator and human resource director during that period of time.
The resolution appointing Pou did not include a resume as was the case with other directors. The resolution does not mention her education level, but states she has certificates from Rutgers University and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.
Torres appointed Pou as acting business administrator in July. He also appointed Barbara Blake-McLennon to serve community development director.
McLennon was employed in Passaic City in the same position in 2011 until she was hired by the city. Prior to that she worked in the city’s community development department in various roles. McLennon has a sociology degree from Ashford University, according to her resume.
Torres’ other acting appointments included Ruben Gomez as economic development director; Domenick Stampone as law director; Donna Nelson-Ivy as health director; Jerry Speziale as police director; and Manuel Ojeda as public works director.
Ojeda has been working in the city’s public works department at various capacity since 1988. He has completed courses for certified public works manager, according to his resume.
Speziale, former Passaic County Sheriff, has served as a New York City police officer before holding police chief’s title in various towns: Prichard, Alabama; New Hope, Pennsylvania. He has a criminal justice degree from Caldwell College and a master’s in administrative science from Fairleigh Dickinson University, according to his resume.
Nelson-Ivy has served as director in various organizations in Springfield, Massachusetts including serving as an area director for the Massachusetts department of mental retardation and as a management consultant at Elm and Associates. Nelson-Ivy has a sociology degree from Ramapo College and master’s in education management from Cambridge College, according to her resume.
Stampone has worked in the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor and as a municipal prosecutor in Passaic City. He has a four-year degree from William Paterson University and a juris doctor from Seton Hall University, according to his resume.
Gomez served as the director of Brick City Development Corporation in Newark and served as a finance officer at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) before joining the city in 2012. He has a biology and psychology degree from University of Minnesota and a master’s in international management from the University of St. Thomas, according to his resume.
Torres also recently tapped former city finance director Margaret Cherone to run the city’s finance department. Cherone has served as chief financial officer in Caldwell for approximately two years before becoming finance director in West New York.
Before that she served as a chief financial officer in Hackensack for one-year. Prior to that she served as acting chief financial officer in Passaic County for three years, according to her resume.
She is currently employed in West New York, according to officials there; however, her resume does not mention her position at the Hudson County municipality.
Cherone has an accounting degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, according to her resume.
Her resume states she has a Municipal Finance Officer Certification from 1990 which is a basic requirement for the finance director post. New Jersey law allows a finance director to serve at that capacity, but mandates the individual must obtain the certificate within two years.
Cherone’s daughter was recently hired in the city’s legal department as a paralegal. Cherone said on Monday she was not being appointed to any posts.
“I’m not being appointed to anything,” said Cherone.
City officials Tuesday evening pulled the resolution appointing Cherone. When asked why the resolution was pulled, Pou said, “It will come up at a later time.”
When told Cherone had said she was not being appointed to anything, Pou issued an awkwardly bizarre remark to negate Cherone’s comment. “She didn’t tell you anything,” said Pou.
Council members postponed the appointments for a special meeting during the next workshop meeting of the council on March 3rd, 2015.
“It would probably be more beneficial if we hold off because we still don’t know what our transitional aid amount is going to be,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman.
Story updated with remarks from Torres on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 at 10:51 a.m.