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Brick Government Restructuring Plan Proves Controversial

Warning from attorney as ordinance intending on cutting costs moves forward

The introduction of two ordinances that would eliminate several positions in municipal government, create some new positions and restructure several departments proved controversial Monday night, starting with a warning from the township attorney.

The ordinances, which Council President John Ducey said were not drafted by the regular township attorney, would eliminate eight positions within township government and create three new ones. Not all of the eight positions are currently filled, Ducey said.

In addition to the eight positions to be cut, which include those currently held by Deputy Business Administrator Juan Bellu and Recreation Department Head Dave Francese, the departments of Recreation as well as Community Development and Land Use would be eliminated entirely, with their operations rolled into other departments.

Warning from Attorney

Ducey said the elimination of the positions could save taxpayers as much as $418,000 per year, but the introduction of the ordinances on first reading began with a warning from Township Attorney Jean Cipriani.

"These ordinances have a tremendous impact on a number of employees' employment," said Cipriani. "Some have bumping rights."

That means even if some of the affected employees are appointed and not covered under civil service laws, they retain the right to move back into the civil service system, which in turn could cause other employees to be "bumped" out of their positions.

Cipriani said introducing the ordinances without identifying potentially-affected employees and issuing them so-called Rice notices came with risk.

Rice notices are legally-mandated notices given to certain public employees whose employment will be discussed at a governmental meeting.

"You did not contact, as far as I know, any of the individually-affected employees," said Cipriani.

Cipriani, along with Business Administrator Scott Pezarras and Councilman Domenick Brando, balked at the fact that they were not notified of the pending ordinance introductions until late Friday.

Cipriani also said there were "significant substantive problems" with the proposal, though she did not identify them at the meeting.

Brando abstained from voting to introduce the ordinances. All of the other council members – with the exception of Councilman Joseph Sangiovanni, who was not present – voted in favor of introducing them.

"I may very well, in the end, vote for these ordinances," Brando said. "But I just need more information."

Additions and Subtractions

The proposed ordinances eliminate eight positions, six of them being deputy department heads. They are the deputy department heads for: Administration, Finance and Public Affairs, Land Use and Community Development, Engineering, Law, Parks and Recreation and Public Works. The remaining two positions to be eliminated are Director of Land Use and Community Development and Director of Parks and Recreation.

Some of those positions, such as the deputy department head for the Law Department, are not filled. In the case of the Department of Law, the township uses an outside law firm as its counsel instead of an in-house team.

Three positions would be created under the ordinances. They are deputy department heads for the Finance Department and the Tax Assessor. A deputy township clerk position would also be created.

The elimination of the current salaries will save $418,000, when the additional salary of the deputy clerk position is factored in.

"When we ran, we were running on doing this," said Councilman Jim Fozman. "And this is the right time."

Ducey said most of the positions being eliminated were created in 2008, and for years the township ran efficiently without them.

"These changes were made in 2008, and you all know what happened from 2008 until today with our taxes," he said. "They skyrocketed."

State law requires a public hearing and a second vote before the ordinances can be enacted. Those actions are expected to take place at the Sept. 25 council meeting.

nan September 25, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Bumping rights do exist in the private sector in jobs which are collectively bargained by a Union.
nan September 25, 2012 at 08:09 PM
There are people who could and would do these jobs. They do not have the backing of either political party theat means they do not have the money to run.
nan September 25, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Mr. Grump... If you watched the Sept 10 meeting you would have heard these questions asked and NOT answered. A committee of three had some unnamed attorney draft the resolution. By itself it would not have been bad if on first reading there had been full disclosure of why someone else and all the info without anyone having to ask the questions. As to paying the attorney that answer was "No impact" pay Ms Ciopriani or pay unnamed attorney. Having chosen another attorney the rationale should have been given to us and the unnamed attorney should have taken the seat at the Counsel table to answer all questions. We are not allowed to comment on first reading but we are still entitled to ALL the FACTS.
Sal Petoia September 25, 2012 at 11:56 PM
For Nan: You are correct, but isn't it a disservice to the public that money is the most important matter in determining an election and who governs us? In a partisan election such as what we now have in Brick, an independent, even if well funded, stands little chance of winning because people are so conditioned to voting either Republican or Democrat. It doesn't really matter if the independent has good ideas. He or she is already at a disadvantage. At least in a non-partisan election, such as what Brick had for over twenty years, the "playing field" is a little more level in that the party candidate isn't so identified on the ballot. Voters have to do a little thinking before casting a vote. I'm in favor of going back to non-partisan!
knarfie September 27, 2012 at 07:10 PM
If Scarpelli is the best name to come up with, it's really time to get out of town.

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