Full-Time Mayorship a 'Bold Move for Bloomingdale,' Mayor Says
Council voted to approve Jonathan Dunleavy taking on administrative responsibilities.
In a 4-2 vote, the Bloomingdale Council approved expanding the mayor's position to a full-time role Monday morning.
The council unanimously voted in favor of Jonathan Dunleavy serving in that role. Both council Republicans, Councilwoman Linda Shortman and Councilman Mark Conklin, were not in favor of the new mayoral structure, but lauded Dunleavy for the work he has done assuming administrative responsibilities and said they support him.
Discussion on full-time mayorship had been tabled since Tuesday when Borough Attorney Fred Semrau had advised the council to hold off on voting on the change, unprecedented for Bloomingdale, while he looked into legal concerns raised by former Councilwoman Linda Huntley during a public hearing on the ordinance. Semrau said at Monday's special meeting that having a mayor serve full time does not go against the borough's "strong council, weak mayor" form of government.
"It's something that's legal and permissable," he said.
The mayor will be paid $84,000 per year (up from $2,000 per year as part-time mayor) and report to the council, with the council having discretion over going back to the part-time mayorship if the members so choose, as long as 90 days notice is provided.
Dunleavy would not hold the title of administrator, although he will take on responsibilities of the job, as he has been since Ted Ehrenburg left the borough for a position in Bloomfield.
"The administrator's position is one that is not required," Semrau said. "It's a position that's supposed to be an extension of the council."
Councilman Ray Yazdi said the difference in salary from what Ehrenburg was making as a full-time administrator and what Dunleavy will be making (he will not be accepting any benefits from the borough) is more than $40,000 per year.
Some of the logistics of the new role still need further discussion. Resident Geraldine Delazier questioned whether the mayor would be able to vote. Semrau said the mayor would likely continue to be able to break a tie on matters that are not a conflict of interest. In the event of a conflict, Bloomingdale Police Chief Joseph Borell would assume borough administrator duties, Councilman John D'Amato explained.
Delazier charged the Democratic council majority of making a political decision to cater to Dunleavy.
"He'll always be OK in their eyes," she said.
But D'Amato, speaking only for himself, promised that he was not making his decision to vote in favor of the full-time role politically. D'Amato said that if it does not work out, he will be the first to recommend the mayor's position go back to being part-time.
"We have a job to do up here that's right for the borough, not right for the mayor," he said.
Shortman qualified her comments by saying that she was not voting against the full-time mayor's role as a personal slight against Dunleavy, but that she has seen the way full-time mayorship has operated in neighboring communities like Riverdale and Parsippany and she finds there to be flaws. She said she felt creation of the role would be "blurring the lines between executive and administrative" responsibilities.
"Once you combine the political with the administrator's job, [the municipalities with a full-time mayor] will tell you on a one-to-one basis, this is a difficult thing to dissolve," she said.
Shortman said she thinks Dunleavy would make an exceptional administrator, but does not think he should then continue to be mayor.
"I don't think both jobs can be done well," she said.
Yazdi commented, after saying he thinks Dunleavy would serve well in the role, that the council is only faced with the decision of whether to make a full-time mayor's position because of the choices of the former Republican majority-led council.
"We're forced to make a decision today as a result of the actions of the council two years ago," he said.
He referenced the invalidation of borough professionals' contracts and said he felt that decision led to Ehrenburg, former CFO Donna Mollineaux and others wanting to leave the borough. Shortman said the loss of Ehrenburg and Mollineaux, in terms of savings, was not so bad.
"I don't see losing those two people as a negative at all. I see it as a positive," she said.
Yazdi said the loss of two full-time employees in those positions did create an opportunity for the borough to save money. But he also said that quality needs to be considered and that he felt Dunleavy would be able to leverage his experience to do good things for the borough.
Dunleavy sat in the audience for the duration of the meeting as the council members were discussing the items as they related to his employment. But the mayor did offer some comments after the ordinances were approved.
"It certainly is a bold move for Bloomingdale," Dunleavy said of creating the full-time position.
The mayor said that when discussion began on full-time mayorship, it was intended to be, and still is, an interim position, allowing the council to search for an administrator that could come at the same savings to the borough as Dunleavy's full-time position would be. He noted that he will not be getting a contract. Dunleavy also said that if a new administrator were hired, the time it would take to familiarize that person with borough issues and pending projects would jeopardize initiatives already in the works.
"Bloomingdale is on the cusp of some really big and good things about to happen," he said.
He included the redevelopment of Union Avenue and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program with the company formerly known as AvalonBay and said there is more on the horizon that is not able to be discussed publicly.
"It is imperative that we keep the momentum," he said.
Dunleavy promised the council, public, and specifically Delazier, that he would prove that the decision to create a full-time mayor's position is not political and that he will do a good job.
"It's about Bloomingdale. It's not about Democrats, it's not about Jon Dunleavy. It's about all of us," he said.