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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.

PCB Social Media Arts January 23, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Here is what I see...and I like Jon and so I am trying to remain objective, but in regards to Linda Huntley's objections, she has been wrong before with her claims of legalities, everyone remember her advice during joann's attempt to repeal the pilot issue at her last meeting? Her points were dead wrong and without any legal basis. This is a fact! If our attorney does more due diligence and discovers that this plan is in fact legal then I would be comfortable with it. What I am looking forward to is a savings to the borough of about $50,000 per year with this action. I am in no way nervous about his competence in this roll either, I know that he would do a great job for the borough. As a matter of FACT, our borough has saved over $20,000 so far since Ted left with Jon doing the work. You detractors can say what you want and make all the wild claims you want, but it is not disputable that this mayor has worked his butt off to fill this position even to the detriment of his private business. Every day all day you can see his car at the town hall. If you know him then you also know that he will do a better job than Ted ever did, for $50,000 less money too. I will agree that this situation will be unorthodox for the borough, but if there was ever a Mayor that could pull it off it would be this mayor. All this on the premise though that it would be found to be legal.
Krikor Etmekjian January 23, 2013 at 10:02 PM
I agree 100% Paul, particularly about the legal prowess remark.
catnmouse January 23, 2013 at 11:30 PM
$82,000.00 was Teds starting salary. Why can't we hire a BA for the same price! We would still be saving money and Jon can stay as Mayor only?
Rich Dellaripa January 24, 2013 at 01:37 AM
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when you adjust for inflation, the $82,000 Ted was giving as a starting salary is worth $67,500 today; the equivalent salary today would be $99,600.
Krikor Etmekjian January 24, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Rich don’t confuse cat with the facts, it will just make it worse.
PCB Social Media Arts January 24, 2013 at 03:44 AM
Ill take the 17K per year and keep moving!
Kevin January 24, 2013 at 01:02 PM
Paul you could never be objective when it comes to Jon or Linda. You praise him, warranted or not whenever you can and you attack her, usually viciously whenever you can. And Krikor you have joined that club too. At the meeting, a few of Jon supporters got up and thanked her for saying what she did. So I have to conclude they felt the same way but are just not inclined to say it publicly. Jon should make a choice, mayor or BA, not both it is wrong.
paul bastante January 24, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Kevin...just calling it like I see it. Linda doesnt really have a good record giving legal advice. I was just pointing to one example where she was dead wrong before, during the joann fiasco durig her last meeting. Am I wrong? If I am please show me.
Royta January 24, 2013 at 05:39 PM
If being the Mayor and BA both, is truly wrong, then there are about 100 other towns in NJ that are "wrong". Sure it is a departure from what has been in place in Bloomingdale. Remember the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. But things are in need of repair / improvement, so why not research, propose and try new concepts? I'm puzzled why some are adverse to trying things differently.
PCB Social Media Arts January 24, 2013 at 08:40 PM
It is because it is Jon. Jon could say the sky is blue and they would argue. That is the way it has always been.
Gary January 24, 2013 at 10:06 PM
It is not because it is Jon, it is because we have a certain form of government and that form of government does not permit it. It can go on a referendum to change the form or government, but that means it is changed for any and all future mayors also.
catnmouse January 24, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Krikor & Rich I differ with what you are saying. There are enough people looking for a job, with qualifications, that would be very happy to take the BA job for $82,000.
Rich Dellaripa January 25, 2013 at 03:52 AM
If what she stated is confirmed by the Borough Attorney, then she definitely deserves thanks. I'd like to point what seems to be a common misconception that is in your last sentence. He would not be Mayor AND Borough Administrator; he would be the full time Mayor, negating the need for a full time BA.
Kevin January 25, 2013 at 04:37 AM
If you really think they want public input why did they schedule the follow-up meeting for Monday morning at 8:30 am. They do not want public input. They want to do whatever they please with no one there to be able to object.
Rich Dellaripa January 25, 2013 at 02:38 PM
I assure you, that is not the intent. I don't think anyone was happy with the time, but that was the best available based on scheduling conflicts. I'm sure the entire Governing Body would welcome any further input, and if someone cannot make the time, if he or she send a letter to the Municipal Clerk, she'll distribute it out so it can be read before the matter gets voted on. Personally, I would give it more weight if there were examples of what citizens are worried might happen if it goes through. I understand it is a change, but (assuming the Boro Attorney is correct, otherwise it will never come to a vote at all) it's not really, in my mind, a fundamental change in the form of our government, so specifics on what anticipated unintended consequences would give any argument against it more weight.
Kevin January 26, 2013 at 02:36 AM
And what legal advice do you think she gave?

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