Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration successfully killed two measures proposed by councilman Kenneth Morris to control the city’s hiring expenses and overtime spending arguing it upsets the balance of power in municipal government.
Morris proposed controlling overtime expenditures by requiring the administration to come to the council to obtain approval once the overtime budget for a given division reaches 65-percent. He also proposed controlling salary expenses by requiring the administration to come to the council’s finance committee to obtain approval for any new non-essential hire whose salary exceeds $30,000.
Law director Domenick Stampone told the council the two measures are “unenforceable” which forced Morris to withdraw the two resolutions on Tuesday night.
“No matter how artfully phrased these resolutions are, if they act as a form of prior approval of an administrative function, they essentially overstep the legislative power of the council,” said Stampone.
Stampone said both measures increase the power of the council by infringing on the authority of the administration as it is divided in the Faulkner Act, a state law that sets up local governments for New Jersey municipalities.
The law director said the council can adopt them, but he could not sign them as legally valid. “They do not meet the standard of the Faulkner Act,” he said. He said the council can adopt the measures to take a stance.
Morris said he does not want to pass “feel good legislation” that have no power. He said the resolutions were introduced in the “spirit of cooperation” between the council and the administration to reduce government spending.
“We can go the other way. We can look at the overtime budget, as is presented, and automatically cut it by 65-percent,” said Morris. He recommended the council reduce all overtime line items for every division and department by 65-percent.
Morris also recommended removing all positions that are vacant so as to deter the administration from making political hires.
“So we still accomplish the same thing,” said Morris.
Morris’ colleagues supported both resolutions to control municipal spending.
“This would be a start of what we need to do,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman.
“We have to find a way to control overtime,” added Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.
The measures were proposed after the council rejected the mayor’s temporary appropriations and budget changes multiple times citing excessive spending under the third Torres administration.
This report was last updated on March 17th, 2016 at 2:44 p.m.