Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration hired a new personnel officer for $57,000 on the same day his business administrator sent a memorandum to all municipal employees urging them to give up two weeks of pay over a six-month period to resolve an ongoing budget crisis.
Jerrell Antley, the new hire, began working on Dec. 19. He had been working at the Human Resources Department in East Orange since Feb. 2, 2017. His salary was $40,000 in the Essex County town, according to public records.
Several council members criticized the hiring decision in late December. On Wednesday, council president Maritza Davila questioned the hiring decision.
“We were supposed to have a freeze on hiring,” said Davila. Indeed, the mayor and his business administrator Vaughn McKoy have told council members a hiring freeze had been imposed as a result of a budget crisis that resulted in a two-percent tax hike on homeowners. “Where’s the advertisement? When was this advertised? What qualifications does he have?”
Antley attended Hunter College at the City University of New York (CUNY) in New York until May 2015. He previously worked as a personnel clerk and personnel aide in East Orange. Earlier in the year, the Sayegh administration hired his boss, Michele Ralph-Rawls.
Ralph-Rawls’ was hired for $84,000 in Sept. 2018. She found herself embroiled in a controversy last month for signing off on a longevity 6-percent pay increase for herself. The pay raise was later cancelled.
Davila created the council’s personnel committee after reports of Ralph-Rawls’ abortive pay raise.
“He does have experience dealing with health benefits plans and identifying areas where we can save money,” said Sayegh on Wednesday.
Davila also suggested the administration is failing to follow a municipal ordinance that requires employees to live in the city. She said the new personnel committee will scrutinize the hiring decision.
Sayegh said his administration will provide all documents the personnel committee requests. “We’ll provide her with any information she wants. We’ll furnish it,” said the mayor.
Sayegh pushed back against the creation of the personnel committee last month. He does not want the council to pre-approve hiring of employees, an executive branch function.
The city did not have a personnel officer on the payroll going back five years.