The city’s controversial health and human services director Donna Nelson-Ivy will not be returning after Jul. 1, according to sources.
Nelson-Ivy, who was appointed by former mayor Jeffery Jones eight years ago, has found herself involved in a number of controversies over the years. She was involved in the overtime scandal that emerged as flood waters receded following hurricane Irene that permanently hobbled the Jones’ administration.
As director, Nelson-Ivy hired her sister-in-law by skirting the city’s ethics code, which disallows nepotism.
More recently, Nelson-Ivy was condemned by protesters for protecting the troubled needle exchange operator, the Well of Hope. She cited a bogus inspection report to discourage inspectors from the Division of Health from investigating the poorly run organization’s building on Broadway.
Nelson-Ivy at one point disparaged her own department employees for inspecting the Well of Hope. She tried to protect the troubled organization, which unloaded hundreds of thousands of needles in the city that were found in parks and other public places, as neighborhood residents staged repeated protests.
Nelson-Ivy last week did not respond to a request for comment for this story. She expected to retain her $92,000 job in the incoming administration. Her former campaign manager, Ed Cotton, lobbied hard to keep her in the post.
Cotton, who is the husband of council president Ruby Cotton, was her campaign manager in 2014. Nelson-Ivy came in sixth place among eight candidates for mayor. Cotton, the husband, served as councilman Andre Sayegh’s de facto campaign manager this year.
Mayor-elect Sayegh has avoided discussing personnel changes. He said last week, his transition team is conducting interviews of city employees.
Sayegh would not say whether his team has settled on a new health and human services director.
Councilman Michael Jackson, who described Nelson-Ivy as “compromised” last year for protecting the troubled needle exchange program, said he had expected more from a city resident.
Nelson-Ivy lives in Paterson. She is among fewer than half of the department directors to live in the community.
Health officer Paul Persaud, who was overlooked by Nelson-Ivy for an appointment that led to a four-year legal fight in which he prevailed, avoided criticizing her. On the eve of taking office, former mayor Jones told employees of the health department, guys I need my own team, recalled Persaud.
“The new mayor is entitled to his own team,” said Persaud, who is the director of the Division of Health. He said he is not interested in the health and human services director’s post.
Sayegh favors separating the Division of Health from the existing department. State law requires the city to have a board of health. The council serves as the board of health, but hasn’t held meetings in years.
Nelson-Ivy is the second director to leave. Law director Domenick Stampone, who is the mayor of neighboring Haledon, has said he won’t be returning after Jul. 1.