In an uncommon practice, Mayor Joseph Accardi read a letter from former Roselle Park Republican Committee Chair Elizabeth A. Cairney during the July 19, 2012 Mayor & Council meeting in support of having Borough Clerk Doreen Cali as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). The mayor simply referred to Ms. Cairney as ‘a resident’ before he read the letter in its entirety. When done, the mayor refused to give Ms. Cairney’s name and just stated that the letter was signed and not anonymous.
In the four-paragraph correspondence (a copy of which is available at the end of this article), Ms. Cairney starts by writing about council’s decision not to hire Ms. Cali. In November 2011 council first voted down in a 4-2 vote a resolution to have Ms. Cali officially become the Borough’s CAO. This vote was taken due to the fact that Ms. Cali was temporarily named as the CAO for the second of half of 2006 by resolution. That position was not renewed for 2007 but Ms. Cali claimed that she had been performing such duties for the borough since that time and wanted to officially be named the CAO once again. Eight months later, the matter was brought up again during a July Municipal Budget Workshop on the insistence of Mayor Accardi and council voted to remove the salary – and thereby the position – of CAO. The vote at that meeting was 5-1.
In one sentence of her opening paragraph, Ms. Cairney alludes to issues with “one department head that, with encouragement from a member of council, elected not to follow the direction of guidance of Ms. Cali.” Although she does not mention the council member nor the department head, several sources close to the matter claimed that the department head was DPW superintendent Vince Cahill.
In her second paragraph, the former Republican Committee Chair gives the approximate governing body salaries of only nine (9) of the 21 municipalities in Union County. The list ranges from $1 in Fanwood to Roselle Park which had the highest salary on the list. She did not list any mayor’s salaries.
The next section of Ms. Cairney’s letter stated that “It appears that some members of council have difficulty – for one reason or another – making Ms. Cali the Administrator”. She follows that statement by asking if the governing body would be willing to take a 50% cut in their salaries to offset the salary and benefits for a CAO.
She continued by claiming that “Once an Administrator is hired you can forgo many of the responsibilities that have been assumed and are not your responsibilities as a member of council”. In reviewing the Borough Code Book, although there is a Powers & Duties listed for the mayor (Section 2-3), there are no such responsibilities provided for a member of council; only for the position of Council President (Section 2-6).
In addition, Ms. Cairney’s statement regarding the absence of administrative responsibilities for council contradicts NJSA 40A:60-6.c and 40A:60-7.a which state that a borough council has all executive responsibilities not placed on the mayor and that a borough council can, if it chooses, delegate those responsibilities to an Administrator. The first annotation reads “The council shall have all the executive responsibilities of the municipality not placed, by general law or this act, in the office of the mayor” while the second citation states that “The borough council may, by ordinance, delegate all or a portion of the executive responsibilities of the municipality to an administrator.”
Ms. Cairney ended her correspondence by referring to an incident where she claimed that DPW employees removed and/or trimmed trees at the Church Of The Assumption’s property ‘or private property’. She provided no further detail but asked who authorized the work and why non-public work was done at the taxpayers’ expense.
When reached for comment and further detail on that particular incident and her letter, Ms. Cairney stated that she had no further comment other than to state that she faxed her personal letter from New Jersey State Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz’ office – where Ms. Cairney is employed – because she had forgotten to drop it off at Borough Hall and wanted to get it to the Borough before the close of business; supposedly so the letter would be read at that evening’s Mayor & Council meeting. Her fax was sent at 4:07 p.m. on afternoon of that July 28th meeting but it was not publicly read until July 19th.
At the conclusion of the meeting, when asked for comment on his reading of the letter, Mayor Joseph Accardi stated that the Ms. Cairney wished to have the letter read and that it was his prerogative to do so. Asked why her name was not read publicly, the mayor said that the letter could be requested through an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request.
Below is a copy of the faxed letter: