Paterson hired zoning officer who lacked required experience, says state | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Paterson hired zoning officer who lacked required experience, says state

By Jayed Rahman
Published: December 10, 2020

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A zoning officer hired under mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration lacked the three years of experience required for the job, according to a determination made by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.

Glen Turi, who was hired as zoning officer in September 2018, had just six months of zoning experience out of nearby by Haledon, a tiny town the size of a Paterson neighborhood. He was still hired to run the zoning office in New Jersey’s third largest city.

“You were found to be lacking two years of applicable experience,” read a letter dated January 21 from the New Jersey Civil Service Commission to Turi. He had written to the agency inquiring why he was ineligible for the zoning officer examination.

The zoning officer job requires three years of experience in “preparation and revision of building construction plans and specifications or in the inspection and enforcement of zoning and/or building construction laws and regulations.”

Turi spent decades as a real estate appraiser, according to his resume submitted to both Paterson and Haledon.

“A review of your duties as a Real Estate Appraiser did not have the preparation and revision of building construction plans and specifications or in the full-time inspection and enforcement of zoning and/or building construction laws and regulations, as the primary focus. Rather, you indicated duties such as analyzing and appraising plans and specifications, appraising different types of buildings, tax appeal work, and developing the highest and best use for a parcel,” states the letter. “While zoning may have been an ancillary consideration, inspecting buildings to enforce zoning laws or preparing and revising building construction plans and specifications was not the primary focus. You lack two years of applicable experience.”

Turi declined to comment on Wednesday.

Turi was demoted from zoning officer to assistant zoning officer in February. His salary was reduced from $70,000 to $60,000, a $10,000 reduction, according to public records.

Then-assistant zoning officer Milton Robinson, who claimed the Sayegh administration overlooked him, was promoted to zoning officer. He had served in the assistant post for 12 years. He had alleged Turi was favored because of his ties to former law director Domenick Stampone and former economic development director Ruben Gomez.

Economic development director Michael Powell defended Turi on Wednesday. He claimed, despite the state letter, Turi is “qualified.” He also said Turi has been helping to modernize the zoning office by implementing new technologies.

“He definitely has the experience to serve in the assistant zoning officer position. He has done a great job,” said Powell.

Robinson has retired since his promotion. Municipal officials opened up the examination process to hire a new zoning officer.

Turi was deemed ineligible to apply.

Municipal officials later scrapped the hiring process, leaving Turi as the de facto zoning officer without the actual title. By scrapping the hiring process, the Sayegh administration allegedly discriminated against two Paterson residents – one Black and the other Hispanic. Both men have filed complaints with the city and have threatened to file lawsuits.

“They discriminated against me because I’m African American,” said Tyree Balmer. “You have someone working there who is not qualified.”

Balmer and Mario Lopez were eligible for the zoning officer job. Balmer said both men are “highly qualified” for the position. He pointed out Paterson has a residency policy that requires the city to hire residents.

All employees are “required as a condition of their continued employment to have their place of abode in the City and to be bona fide residents therein,” reads a municipal ordinance.

Turi is a resident of Wayne.

Turi’s job application falsely claimed he is a resident of Paterson.

Municipal officials can obtain a waiver from the City Council to hire an outsider if they have “special talent or expertise” not available within the city.

Turi cited his experience in Haledon when he applied for the Paterson job. He submitted a resume to Haledon that did not list any zoning experiences. He listed four jobs in which he handled appraisals.

Turi’s office hours in Haledon, listed on the town’s website in January, were from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, but those hours were changed to “by appointment.”

Turi was working in Paterson from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Paterson records.

Haledon does not make him submit timesheets listing hours worked. He also does not clock in and out using a biometric machine. Haledon does not have a contract with Turi, according to information released as part of a Paterson Times records request.

Haledon mayor Domenick Stampone did not respond to a call for comment on Thursday morning.

Councilman Michael Jackson, who got a hold of the state letter from social media after the Paterson Times shared it with Balmer, said it is evidence that showed Turi was “unqualified” for the position. He has been criticizing the Sayegh administration for the hire over the past year.

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