A pair of hires over the last six months has prompted some to argue the city is overlooking its residents for municipal jobs and failing to adhere to an ordinance that requires employees to live within the city.
Under the ordinance the administration has to advise the City Council prior to hiring or appointing non-residents to jobs.
“That hasn’t been done. This is a concern of the council that’s why we created the personnel committee,” said Flavio Rivera, councilman at-large, chairman of the personnel committee. “We have a residency requirement that we have to follow.”
Council members have criticized the hiring of zoning officer Glen Turi and personnel officer Jerrell Antley. Neither Turi nor Antley reside in Paterson.
Turi lives in Wayne and Antley lives in Union City.
Turi was hired on Sept. 10, 2018 for $70,000 and Antley on Dec. 18, 2018 for $55,000, according to municipal records. Neither brought a “special talent or expertise” not available among Paterson residents.
In both cases, two experienced municipal employees, who reside in the city, sought the positions.
In the first case, Milton Robinson, who has worked as an assistant zoning officer for 12 years, applied for the zoning officer position, but was rejected.
“It was already fixed,” said Robinson. He said Turi was tied to former law director Domenick Stampone and economic director Ruben Gomez.
Robinson met the requirements for the job. He is a licensed architect and a planner. He also completed the three required zoning courses for the job.
Turi’s resume states he had two of the three courses. Turi had completed introduction to zoning administration and enforcement; site plan and subdivision review for zoning official; but not zoning administration and enforcement II. His resume states he was scheduled to take the third course in May 2018.
“I have all of them. I had that before. It’s an old, old [resume],” said Turi on Thursday. His resume, submitted to the city in May 2018, stated he was “working towards my zoning official certificate.”
The job posting also called for three years of experience in “preparation and revision of building construction plans and specification” or “fulltime inspection and enforcement of zoning” or “building construction laws and regulations.”
At the time he applied for the job, Turi had less than six months of experience as zoning officer. His resume states he began working as zoning officer in Haledon in 2018.
“It was my appraisal. Part of my appraisal is called zoning and planning,” said Turi. He has 19 years of experience in appraising residential and commercial real estate, according to his resume.
Turi also claimed Paterson residency on his job application. A field asked whether he had been a legal resident of Paterson for the past year, he marked, “yes.” When asked about his answer, he replied, ”No, I didn’t. I don’t want to make any comments without looking at it. I’d never do that.”
He was emailed a copy of his answer on Thursday. He has not responded as of Tuesday morning.
“Obviously, there were some considerations given with respect to this hire and I think they should be held to explain the process,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, referring to the mayor and the business administrator.
Turi’s application and resume had obvious shortcomings.
Instead of hiring the man, who had been working as the de facto zoning officer for the city for over a decade, municipal officials hired Turi.
“I felt disenfranchised,” said Robinson. “I waited 12 years.”
Robinson has filed a grievance and is contemplating a possible lawsuit against the city.
In the second case, Eugenia Byfield, who has worked in the city’s personnel office since 2013, applied for the personnel officer’s job. She too was rejected. She said she met all the requirements for the job.
“It’s really unfair. It’s not just unfair to me. It’s unfair to the residents of Paterson,” said Byfield on Friday. “It really upsets me.”
The personnel officer’s job required three years of supervisory personnel experience. She had five years of experience.
Byfield said she lacked the bachelor’s degree called for in the job posting. But the job posting allowed substitution for the degree using work experience which she had.
Antley did not have a bachelor’s degree. He had been attending Hunter College and had 18 credits remaining, according to his resume. His resume states he began working as an intern in East Orange in 2014, personnel clerk in 2015 through 2017, and personnel aide in 2018.
“Those are issues for the administration to answer,” said McKoy. He suggested the personnel committee review both hiring decisions. He called the decisions “puzzling” and sought an explanation from the hiring manager.
Mayor Andre Sayegh did not respond to a call for comment for this story on Thursday.
“The Mayor and the Administration do not comment on personnel matters,” said Sayegh’s chief of staff Kathleen Long.
Both Robinson and Byfield could potentially sue the city and win their cases.
For example, four years ago, the city settled a case, in which then-health director Donna Nelson-Ivy overlooked now-health director Paul Persaud for the health officer’s job. Persaud, who resides in Paterson, sued. His case dragged on for years, but he ultimately won. A three judge panel relied on the residency ordinance to rule in his favor.