The New Jersey Department of Health in its evaluation of the Paterson Health Department has recommended the city council hold quarterly meetings as the board of health. Under the city’s form of government, the city council also serves as the board of health.
Council members have not held meetings as the city’s board of health in decades. The state requires every municipality to have a functional board of health. In its performance evaluation (audit) of the Paterson Health Department in June, the state issued low marks for the city’s failure to hold regular board of health meetings, failure of board (council) members to attend public health related training, and health officer’s failure to encourage board members to pursue health related leadership training (the health officer does not have access to the board of health to do so, notes the report).
The city also failed to present an annual “status of the community’s health” report to the public. This report is presented by the health officer in a public meeting of the board of health. These are the items where the city received the lowest mark of standard “not met.”
There are several related items where the city “partially met” the state’s standards. For example, the city council (board of health) “partially met” the standard for leadership in setting public health policy, passing ordinances, addressing personnel issues, and approving budgets.
Council members have yet to see the final 21-page performance evaluation report which the state provided to former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration in mid-June. Councilman Michael Jackson, who has publicly criticized his colleagues for failing to fulfill their duties as the board of health, was provided a copy by a reporter in September.
Jackson inquired about the health department performance report at the council’s Sept. 19, 2017 meeting.
Law director Domenick Stampone told the councilman he had not seen such a report. Stampone was included in an Aug. 17, 2017 email that recommended the city take steps to ensure compliance with state law.
Stampone did not respond to a call for comment on Monday.
“I don’t want to make an assumption, but I will ask him and wait to see his response,” said Jackson when told of the August email that included Stampone.
The performance report undermines Stampone’s opinion that the city is in compliance by having a council health committee. Two attorneys disagreed with Stampone prior to the final audit.
One of those was Michael Richmond, attorney for the New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association. He has said the city, by not having a functional board of health, is placing public health at risk in the event of an Ebola-like outbreak. The local board of health and the state department of the health are the two entities that can declare a public health emergency and quarantine people, according to Richmond.
Administration officials have discussed the performance evaluation report. Council members were expected to receive the report and a presentation from health officer Paul Persaud in August.
Council president Ruby Cotton was asked to schedule Persaud to present at a workshop meeting of the council two months ago, according to municipal records. Nothing was scheduled since then.