Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres has submitted the names of eight department heads for confirmation to the city council. Torres is seeking to permanently appoint seven acting directors, who were appointed by the mayor in July, as well as appoint a new finance director.
Torres wants to permanently appoint Domenick Stampone as director of the city’s legal department; Donna Nelson-Ivy as the director of health department; Jerry Speziale as police director; Nellie Pou as business administrator; Barbara Blake-McLennon as community development director; Manuel Ojeda as public works director; Ruben Gomez as economic development director; and Margaret Cherone as finance director.
With the exception of Cherone the rest of the nominees already serve in their respective roles on acting basis. Cherone, who currently serves as treasurer for the Borough of Caldwell, was the city’s finance director from 2002-2004, during Torres’ first term as mayor, according to her resume.
By city ordinance Torres should have submitted his selection to the council 60 days after assuming office. The mayor is allowed to appoint acting or provisional directors for no more than 60 days, according to city ordinance.
City ordinance also require the directors to be residents. Half of the directors Torres is seeking to appoint do not reside in the city. Pou resides in North Haledon; Cherone dwells in Clifton; Stampone lives in Haledon; Gomez is domiciled in Wayne.
Torres did not do a thorough enough search to place city residents into the aforementioned posts, said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman.
“If Paterson is a good enough to earn a living in, it’s good enough to live in,” added Sayegh.
Torres did not respond to a message seeking his comments for this story.
Before a non-resident can be appointed to a directorship, the council must approve a waiver. Council members on Tuesday were divided on how to vet the nominees.
“There some that have performed well,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, “and those can be done in committee.”
Morris, a close ally to Torres, wanted to conduct the interviews in committee, restricted meetings closed to the public, for some of the nominees.
“If we’re going to do some, we should do all of them. I don’t want to take three and not do the others,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. Tavarez suggested the council interview all of the candidates during the council’s next workshop session.
“The council should be afforded the opportunity to provide advice and consent in these matters,” said Sayegh. “In the past we’ve done it.”
Sayegh said in the past the council interviewed candidates prior to confirming them for appointments.