Sixteen months after hiring a personnel director out of East Orange, mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration has reshuffled staff at the personnel department, according to municipal records.
Sayegh’s controversial personnel director Michele Ralph-Rawls has been out on workers compensation leave for months, according to officials. His administration tapped assistant personal director Debra Hannibal to serve as interim personnel director in Nov. 2019, records show.
Hannibal’s salary was boosted to $84,000. She received a $17,700 increase plus another $2,723 in retroactive pay on Jan. 2, 2020, documents show. Hannibal has been working in the personnel department for almost three years, according to payroll records.
The Sayegh administration also assigned assistant business administrator Jennifer Hirschmanner to take on the responsibility of former personnel officer Jerrell Antley. Antley, who was also from East Orange, left last October to become a firefighter. Antley worked for 11 months in Paterson.
Hirschmanner began to carry out Antley’s duties on Oct. 25, 2019. She received a $20,000 pay increase, boosting her total salary to $100,000, to temporarily assume the personnel officer’s duties, according to records.
“I don’t agree with these moves,” said councilman Flavio Rivera, chairman of the personnel committee.
Rivera said the personnel officer position had been vacant for two years before Antley was hired. If the city plans to hire a replacement, the temporary move makes little sense, he said. He also planned to ask for an update on Sayegh’s personnel director.
Rivera feared the salary increases given for the temporary assignments will be permanent.
“Having someone on part-time basis — extra duties — doesn’t seem like a smart move,” said William McKoy, longest serving member of the City Council, referring to the extra duties for the assistant business administrator.
Where does a high-level employee in a busy city find time to take on extra duties? McKoy has often wondered in the past. “To have extra time to do extra duties in a very divergent position is of concern,” he said.
McKoy also said it could be problematic having an employee straddle personnel and business offices. He said the business office often has to review employment decisions made by the personnel office.
Sayegh last week reshuffled his cabinet, elevating his chief of staff Kathleen Long to the business administrator’s post. Long will replace departing Vaughn McKoy in mid-February. Della Fischer was picked to serve was chief of staff.
The personnel department has been mired in controversies and scandals over the past decade. When Sayegh came into office, the personnel director’s post had just become vacant. The mayor had a chance to stabilize a department that had been unstable since the Jeffery Jones administration.
Sayegh did not respond to a call for comment for this story.