Council members on Tuesday evening approved the city’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Chris Christie administration for $25 million in financial assistance from the state.
The approval of the memorandum will allow the city to immediately receive 70-percent of the $25 million, said business administrator Nellie Pou. She said the rest of the funds would be disbursed to the city by June.
Council members often grumble about the conditions the state attaches to the transitional aid it provides to impoverished municipality. Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large, asked what would happen if the council decided against approving the agreement. Pou said the city is relying on the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for the funds. “Until we have the signed document we’re not getting any of it, said the business administrator.
This year’s MOU calls on the city to adopt a new anti-nepotism measure to prevent city employees from hiring relatives and family members like spouses, children, siblings, parents, step-relatives, and in-laws.
Health and human services director Donna Nelson-Ivy was in hot waters last year after it emerged she had hired her sister in-law Denise Coba contrary to the city’s ethics code. After hiring, Coba was under Nelson-Ivy’s direct supervision, which is specially prohibited.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres defended Nelson-Ivy after he kept her at the helm of the health department by stating her husband passed away some 20 years ago. Torres reasoned the dissolution of the relationship made the apparent ethics violation a non-issue.
The agreement also calls on the city to enter into memorandums with the various city boards to ensure they are abiding by best practices, conducting ethics trainings, and are making appropriate financial disclosures.
Pou said the boards are already in compliance. “Many of these things are already being done,” she said. Law director Dominick Stampone said he will craft an agreement for those boards to sign.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilman, raised concerns over blocking pay increases for non-contractual employees. She said it would create in imbalance between employees in unions and non-union workers.
Stampone said there are only 20 employees who fall into that non-contractual group which includes municipal court judges, council members, city clerk and deputy clerk, and department directors.
“Everyone else is in a collective bargaining agreement or are planning to be,” said Stampone. Save two council members, Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, and Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, both of whom were absent, the governing body unanimously approved the agreement during Tuesday’s special meeting.