Full-Time Mayorship Tabled for Legal Review
Council members say increasing mayor's responsibilities would be positive step for Bloomingdale.
At the advice of the borough attorney, Bloomingdale Council members decided to table voting on creating a full-time mayor's position with business administrator's responsibilities Tuesday night.
The council was planning to vote on a pair of ordinances that would change the mayor's position from part-time, at a salary of $2,000, to full-time, with Jonathan Dunleavy agreeing to an $84,000 salary for full-time work. The borough has been without a full-time business administrator since Ted Ehrenburg resigned from the position in November and Dunleavy has taken on much of the responsibilities at no additional charge to the borough since then. Ehrenburg was making a salary of nearly $130,000.
After discussing the ordinances pertaining to the mayor's role during an executive session on Jan. 8, the council members unanimously voted to introduce the change. Public hearings on the ordinances were held at Tuesday's meeting before they could be adopted.
Resident Carla DeWitt approached the council to urge members to do more research on whether a business administrator could be hired separately at the same cost-savings Councilman Ray Yazdi said having Dunleavy serving full-time with the added responsibilities would yield. She said she felt the council was trying to "have our cake and eat it too" and allowing Dunleavy to take on the role on a full-time basis would be inappropriate.
"I think it blurs the lines of what's legislative in this town and what's administrative," she said.
DeWitt said she felt Dunleavy should resign from his mayoral position if he wished to take on business administrator's responsibilities. In her comments, she noted that she had no personal objection to Dunleavy, but an objection to one person having authority over both forms of responsibility. She responded to comments that Dunleavy had a passion and commitment to the borough unparalleled by an outsider coming in to work.
"I don't think that's enough to virtually alter the form of our government," she said.
Councilman John D'Amato responded to DeWitt's concerns and said that the council members agreed that having Dunleavy serve in the full-time role would help push the borough in the direction they wanted to see it go in. D'Amato said the borough has hired four administrators since 2003.
He also addressed concerns that having Dunleavy complete business administrator work would be a conflict of interest because of his political powers as mayor. DeWitt said that this would be one of the first actions the new council would make since a Democratic majority was created with new members' elections in November and that if Dunleavy had not wanted to be in the position, the council members would potentially not be in favor of it.
"The party lines, for me, when I make my decisions, it doesn't matter to me," D'Amato said.
Former Councilwoman Linda Huntley questioned the legality of the ordinances and whether they conformed with the "strong council, weak mayor" form of government Bloomingdale abides by. She had gotten in contact with the state Department of Community Affairs and representatives from the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, who, she said, advised her that the borough could be challenged and lose cases in court if the ordinances were enacted based on the addition of administrative responsilities to the mayoral role.
Borough Attorney Fred Semrau said he reviewed and drafted the ordinances and disagreed, but ultimately advised council members to table the ordinance so he could follow up with the representatives Huntley noted.
"I certainly don't want the governing body to act with any cloud over it," he said.
Still, Semrau told Huntley that the power to appoint, and subsequently remove, the business administrator responsibilities from the mayor's role would be at the discretion of the council and thereby legally acceptable. He also said that the ordinance defining a business administrator's position for the borough does not require that person to have educational background or licenses.
The council will further discuss and vote on the ordinances during a special meeting Monday at 8:30 a.m. at Bloomingdale Borough Hall.