Councilwoman Will Most Likely Have To Resign From RVSA

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Published: February 12, 2016 @ 5:00 PM EDT

Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey will most likely have to resign her appointment from the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) due to her violation of the RVSA Agreement when she publicly appointed Attilio ‘Sonny’ Venturo as her substitute/alternate/co-chair. She also overrode council’s authority to make such an appointment as was done when she was appointed as Roselle Park’s RVSA Commissioner last month.

[T]he councilwoman took to Facebook to announce that she would be sharing attendance responsibilities with Mr. Venturo . . . That solution was based on a suggestion by Doreen Cali, the Borough Clerk.”

The councilwoman’s action was described in the her public response to an article written earlier this week by Roselle Park News regarding her acceptance of the appointment as RVSA Commissioner despite the fact that meetings for the sewerage authority would conflict with municipal meetings. Instead of providing a comment for the article, the councilwoman took to Facebook to announce that she would be sharing attendance responsibilities with Mr. Venturo, basically have him be an alternate to the position of RVSA Commissioner. That solution was based on a suggestion by Doreen Cali, the Borough Clerk.

Earlier this month the councilwoman tried to pass a verbal resolution at the end of the February 4th Mayor & Council Meeting assigning Ms. Cali the duties of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for $25,000 without allowing discussion from the governing body. One of those duties is to see that all terms and conditions in any contract are faithfully kept and performed and, upon knowledge of any violation, notify Council. That resolution did not pass with three council members voting in support of it, three members voting against it, and the mayor breaking the tie by voting ‘no’.

The councilwoman opened her statement by claiming that the Borough Clerk spoke with Mr. Venturo about sharing the responsibilities of the appointment. She did not state whose idea it was to reach out to the man who had held the position for over a decade until he was replaced this year with the councilwoman.

Without consulting members of the governing body, the councilwoman publicly stated that an arrangement had been made where Mr. Venturo would attend all RVSA meetings and she would go to the authority’s meetings when her schedule allows. The relevant statement posted by the councilwoman read:

Ms. Cali had suggested to Mr. Venturo that he and I share representing Roselle Park on the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority. Mr. Venturo will attend all of the agency’s meetings and will receive the $30 fee that attendees receive. I will attend meetings when Council business permits, for no fee.

Councilwoman Storey’s statement not only overrode the authority of the governing body to make such an appointment but it also violated the 1995 agreement between the RVSA and the member municipalities, specifically Section 2 which reads:

There shall be ten (10) members of the Authority, one to be appointed by the governing body of each of the ten ( 10) Municipalities, each of whom need not be members of the governing bodies of the respective Municipalities. The respective terms of said members shall be as in the Statute provided.

One of [CAO] duties is to see that all terms and conditions in any contract are faithfully kept and performed and, upon knowledge of any violation, notify Council.

That section limits one (1) member per municipality. The alternate/substitute arrangement decided upon by the councilwoman is not allowed.

There is also a New Jersey statute, NJSA 40-14A, that addresses membership to sewerage authorities. Section 5 states that Councilwoman Storey’s appointment will be for the entire duration of her term which ends February 2021 until a successor has been appointed. NJSA 40-14A:5(b) states:

“Each member of a sewerage authority shall hold office for the term for which he was appointed and until his successor has been appointed and has qualified.”

Additionally, the section that follows spells out that the removal of a commissioner from the RVSA must be done formally by the governing body and outlines only three (3) reasons for removal: inefficiency, neglect of duty, or misconduct.

The pertinent section of NJSA 40-14A:5(c) reads:

“A member of a sewerage authority may be removed only by the governing body by which he was appointed and only for inefficiency or neglect of duty or misconduct in office and after he shall have been given a copy of the charges against him and, not sooner than ten days thereafter, had opportunity in person or by counsel to be heard thereon by such governing body.”

There is no mention made regarding resignations but it would be presumed that a member could resign and then section (b) would need to be satisfied by having the governing body pass a resolution appointing someone else.

The Facebook page where the councilwoman’s public statement was posted is titled “Roselle Park Observer”. Other than an initial post in November of 2014 that has the photograph of the councilwoman, no explicit mention is made as to the ownership of the page in the About section.

As it relates to Councilwoman Storey’s final comment, Roselle Park News has been developing an article over the last four months on the salaries/stipends of members of the other sewerage authority that the borough is a member of, the Joint Meeting of Essex & Union Counties (JMEUC). It should also be noted that the councilwoman is the 2016 alternate member for the JMEUC and that sewerage authority does allow for an alternate.

The councilwoman’s full statement along with a copy of the 1995 RVSA Agreement are available below:

I wish to note that the Borough Clerk spoke to Mr. Sonny Venturo yesterday at about 11:20 a.m. (which can be verified by OPRAing telephone records) about the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority position and sharing attendance responsibilities with me. Ms. Cali knew I had had oral surgery that morning, as I had stopped at Borough Hall immediately thereafter to see if there was anything I needed to know, as I frequently do, at about 10:15 a.m. I had also mentioned to her that I was going home and back to bed. Thus she did not call me immediately.

Ms. Cali had suggested to Mr. Venturo that he and I share representing Roselle Park on the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority. Mr. Venturo will attend all of the agency’s meetings and will receive the $30 fee that attendees receive. I will attend meetings when Council business permits, for no fee.

The reason that I accepted an appointment from Council to the RVSA last month was that the Council is trying to increase the attention it devotes to the important work of the agency. However, as it worked out, my Council and work schedules do not permit me to attend each meeting. This arrangement will allow the Borough to obtain written reports on the RVSA, as per the mayor’s requests to council members this year to provide material in writing, something that has not been done in the past in many areas, including the RVSA. In addition, verbal updates from me will also help Council pay more attention to RVSA activities. At the same time, we will benefit from Mr. Venturo’s experience and expertise. Besides attending meetings when possible, I will keep close tabs on the agency by consulting with Mr. Venturo.

I am happy to be able to participate in this arrangement. Mr. Venturo has told the Clerk he is happy to participate in this arrangement.

No one is getting rich from the RVSA attendance, with its $30 fees.

Voters interested in activities of the Governing Body that provide pay beyond Borough salaries might want to review such agencies as the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union County, a sewer agency.

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