The investigation into the $74,000 check that was issued to Jose Torres, the former mayor of Paterson, came to a halt, after an email was sent to City Council members with the blessings of Jeffrey Jones, the mayor, denying the council’s request to hold hearings with some administration officials.
“We received today an email, ” said William McKoy, the vice president of the finance committee, who has been put in charge to investigate the unprecedented severance package that Torres received during his last week in office — the email reads: “Council members, pursuant to the directive of the mayor — of mayor Jones — your request for Betty Taylor, Russell Forenza, and Anthony Zambrano to prepare at the next council meeting to address information pertaining to mayor Jose Torres’ buyout package, is hereby denied.”
After McKoy finished reading out-loud the email which was sent to all the council members from the business administrator’s secretary, there were audible expressions of shock and dismay from audience members. One man who was sitting in the crowd uttered, “Wow!” It was hard to believe that the mayor’s office would squash the investigation in its infancy, considering, Jones and the former mayor are irreconcilable political enemies, who will spar again next year over the mayorship.
It is uncertain why Jones denied the request; however, McKoy rationalized and explained one of the reason for the denial was probably because the employees who the committee wished to hear from might be put at risk of being fired from their present employment at the city; McKoy said, some of the attestors were probably worried that “their employment status may be in jeopardy.” McKoy said he simply wanted employees, who were associated with the issuance of the $74,000 pay check, to simply explain their actions; he thought the controversy was “very simple” and the matter could easily be put to rest with employees who handled the city’s payroll at the time of the check’s issuance to simply come out and do some explaining.
“To believe that as employees we do not have confidence in the work that we do such that if I ask you what you did, you now feel fearful to the point that the mayor is now giving you coverage by saying, ‘As the chief executive of the city, I’m preventing the employees that work for the city to report on what it is that they did,’” said McKoy. He called the severance check being labeled a “buyout” by the administration a mischaracterization, explaining that a “buyout is when you’ve done your time, and you are getting ready to retire. The fallen mayor did not retire, he was simply not elected.”
McKoy suggested two alternatives to the stonewalled hearings: a presentation, “with charts and graphs”, prepared by key members of the administration or if that does not work out a full-blown investigation will be launched by the council, similar to the post-Irene investigation that led to some staff removals.
It was four weeks ago that Aslon Goow, former 2nd Ward councilman and a bitter foe of Torres’, came in front of the council with a document, informing them of the windfall Torres received during his last week in office. Two weeks later the council’s finance committee launched a probe to figure out the circumstances surrounding the check, but with very little result.
It is now up to the administration to prepare a presentation for the council and the public explaining the circumstances that led to Torres’ lump-sum severance check; if the administration fails or falls short on its presentation council members intend to form a Committee of the Whole to get to the bottom of the matter.