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Paterson Mayor Defends Actions, Says Council Members Derelict in Responsibilities

10-3-12

Paterson officials are trying to get a new budget passed before the Friday deadline to apply for state aid. Mayor Jeffery Jones told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that city officials are in weekly contact with state representatives about the budget and he’s caught in the middle in the process.

Jones said the administration, which includes himself and the directors, must present the budget to members of the council. Those council members can hold up the process, he said. It’s not a secret that council members and Jones don’t always get along. He said he has presented the budget with the directors and shown the cuts and where they are coming from.

Critics of Jones say he is willing to make cuts in the budget but hasn’t returned overtime money from Tropical Storm Irene last year. Jones denies those allegations and says he has the canceled checks from employees to prove it.

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“The thing at question here is whether or not the state, who was in charge when I came on board, is aware of our policies and procedures by which they’re saying needed to be addressed,” Jones said. “No argument. But you have some folks who have been involved in receiving additional compensation through overtime for almost a decade or two and then tells me today well you need to address this and that.”

Jones said the standards keep changing and he blames opponents for playing politics. When asked who was playing politics, Jones said, “I’m going to have to say the state, thereby the governor.” He also said he’s been battling members of the council who want to take his seat and that Councilman Ken Morris has a vested interest in a development project involving his employer.

“So we have these individuals — and it’s the history of our city — that the council members start to fight the mayors to slow progress,” Jones said. “At this point in time we have an MOU, memorandum of understanding. If I violate it, the city is in jeopardy.”

Jones said the public needs to have confidence that he’s doing his job and he must prove the same to state officials, who he speaks with on a regular basis. He said his proof of proper conduct is that he hasn’t been removed from office.

“If in fact the city of Paterson, Jeff Jones and the administration have failed, I am certain under this governor’s hand and his position as being a governor who goes and takes people out in handcuffs, that would have happened,” he said.

Jones said council members should be investigated instead of him. “There’s been no conversation about us leaving or doing anything awry,” he said. “But there is significant documentation that suggests that this council has been derelict in their responsibilities and yet the administration, that being the state, has to deal with me and not the council.”


  • Michael Symonds

    Let me clarify.

    Mayor Jones is partially correct. The overtime payments made to salaried staffers (who do not qualify for overtime under the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act) for work during Hurricane Irene have been returned, but only after it was discovered that checks had been cut to Mayor Jones and several other officials for their work as “First responders” during Hurricane Irene. Had it not been for a whistle blower at City hall these checks would undoubtedly have been cashed. The DCA ordered the return of the checks immediately. Total amount approx $55,000. The affair is known locally as “OTSCAM”.

    The Paterson City Council and the DCA launched simultaneous investigations into the overtime payments during Irene (Jones called the Council’s Committee of the Whole “a Kangaroo Court”). the State discovered that four salaried officials (the Business Administrator, the Director of Public Works, the Director of Heatth and Human Services and the acting director of Personnel) have been claiming and receiving overtime for extended periods PRIOR to Hurricane Irene. The total amount is $28,000. This money has not been returned. On completion of their inquiry, the council fired the Chief of Staff and Acting Head of Personnel (later reinstated on appeal to her position prior to taking the acting role), suspended the Director of Community Development for 90 days and suspended the Business Administrator for 60 days.

    In a letter to the Mayor in December of 2011 The State Department of Community Affairs Local Government Division directed Mayor Jones to have these individuals return the money ($28K). It has recently come to light that they have not done so. Mayor Jones has said he will defy the State’s order because he said people in the past under previous administrations (in particular the Director of the DPW) received (illegal) overtime payments in the past and he feels its unfair to the 4 individuals to ask them to return the money.

    By refusing to follow the Stete’s directive, Jones is betting that the DCA will only deduct the $28k from state aid. However, activists are concerned that if the DCA takes this route and only deducts this amount on a like for like basis, it will effectively mean that the taxpayer will have been robbed twice, that the officials still keep the money to which they were not entitled, that it sets a dangerous precedent allowing future Mayors to do the same and will prevent the city from attempting to recoup money from officials under previous administrations who took overtime payments which they were not entitled to receive. There are literally hundreds of analogies which clearly show how incorrect the Mayor is. The Mayor also had an opportunity to fix this matter, instead he chose to look out for four people and not look out for the entire population of the city of Paterson or taxpayers throughout the entire state.

    The Business Administrator is voluntarily repaying the money, The Health and Human Services Director promised to do the same but there is no proof she has done so; no word on the latter two (DPW and Acting Personnel Director). Councilman Kenneth Morris is preparing a resolution to garnish the salaries of the officials who have not made payments.

    A couple of background articles attached. Feel free to email me for more information.

    http://thealternativepress.com/towns/paterson/articles/morris-says-city-should-garnish-paychecks-to-reco

    http://www.northjersey.com/news/172411451_Paterson_officials_scramble_to_meet_budget_deadline.html?c=y&page=2