The Bloomfield Council approved a resolution appointing former Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio Acting Director of Police at Monday’s council meeting, which was held at Oakview School.
The resolution was approved by a vote of 4-3, with council members Wartyna Davis, Nick Joanow and Carlos Pomares voting no.
Davis said that her reason for voting against the appointment had nothing to do with DeMaio’s abilities or qualifications. She stated that she objected to it on the basis of procedural issues. She said she thought the council should have conducted additional interviews for the post. Pomares and Joanow stated similar positions, with both expressing their support for DeMaio and praising his qualifications while voting no. Joanow pointed out that between DeMaio and Township Administrator Ted Ehrenburg, a former police chief, the township had 50 years of police experience to draw on.
The appointment will be effective September 16, 2014, and will be in effect for one year. In his new position, DeMaio will receive all the benefits of Director of Police, including 25 vacation days, 15 sick days, and five personal days. He will be required to work at least 40 hours per week on average, and will receive all benefits befitting a full time employee. According to the resolution passed Monday evening, he will receive the same salary as was established for the position of Director of Police by an ordinance passed in August of 2014, which is $165,000.
DeMaio’s firm, SDM Consulting, had been hired by the township in March to conduct a complete study of the police department and to make recommendations for changes in the structure and operations of the department. The contract covered six months and cost $80,000. At the September 15 council meeting, the council voted to retain SDM for an additional two months at a cost of $20,000. DeMaio’s firm had turned in a draft report by that time but the council members had not yet had time to absorb all of the information.
During the public comment period, Rich Galioto, a candidate for 2nd ward council representative, questioned why the township needed an Acting Director of Police when they had appointed James Behre as Director of Police in August. He asked if there would be two positions, and why a police captain couldn’t just step in as Officer in Charge in the absence of the Police Director as had been done in the past under the Police Chief system.
Mayor Venezia said that the Director had notified the governing body that he is on leave, so that is the reason for hiring DeMaio for the newly created position.
Later on, the council voted to approve a Consent Resolution reaffirming Behre’s appointment as Director of Police, effective until August 15, 2015.
After the meeting, Venezia explained further that Behre was using up accumulated leave time prior to taking retirement.
Also during the public comment period, Galioto and John Huegel both raised the accusations that had been made by Acting Chief Behre back in February, alleging that Councilman Carlos Bernard asked for favors and asked him to “fix” a ticket. Galioto asked if the accusations had been forgotten, and Huegel said he had requested an investigation be done by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. Mayor Venezia said that the governing body does not have the authority to conduct an investigation and that the issue had not been forgotten, as it had been turned over to the Essex County Prosecutor for investigation.
Animal Shelter Update
During the public comment period, Maria Probst asked the Mayor and Township Administrator for an update on the status of the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. Bergen County Humane Enforcement’s bid to run the animal shelter was approved at the August 11 council meeting, to be effective September 1, 2014. However, to date the day-to-day operation of the shelter has not yet changed hands due to civil service issues.
Township Administrator Ted Ehrenburg explained the delay in more detail in response to Probst’s question. He said that since the shelter employees are civil service employees, the township has to file a layoff plan by 11/14 with Civil Service. BCHE has offered employment to the existing employees, but not all of them have agreed to work for the organization yet. Depending on the final employment situation, the issue will be resolved, Ehrenburg said, “at the earliest, by November 1, and at the latest, November 14.”
He explained after the meeting that in the meantime work is being done on the shelter facility, including the completion of the upstairs cat room and ensuring that all aspects of the building can pass inspection. He anticipates that this work will be completed at about the same time BCHE takes over the shelter.
Lion Gate Land Purchase
Richard Galioto spoke briefly about the town’s pending purchase of the land located at the former Scientific Glass manufacturing site on Lion Gate Drive to use as open space. The site had been previously approved for 104 townhomes but the council voted in August to appropriate $10.5 million to purchase the land.
Since that time, an injunction against the purchase has been filed by former Democratic Mayor Ray McCarthy, former Republican mayoral candidate Russell Mollica, James Wollner, and Chris Stanziale, alleging that the vote taken on July 14 to approve the appropriation on first reading went against the rules of order, as Councilman Joanow, who chaired the meeting in Mayor Venezia’s absence, discussed Councilman Carlos Bernard’s vote during the voting process and Bernard subsequently changed his vote from “abstain” to “yes.”
The plaintiffs also stated that Joanow has a “conflict of interest” due to his home backing up to the 12.7 acre site in question, according to Bloomfield Life.
Galioto questioned why Mayor Venezia had a “handshake agreement” with the developer prior to the council voting to approve the purchase. Venezia responded that the council had already voted to approve the purchase on first reading before the “handshake” agreement for the township to buy the property.
Later during public comment, Mary Shaughnessy spoke in support of Joanow and the purchase of the Lion Gate property. She said Joanow did not have a conflict of interest in the matter, as New Jersey law states he “would have to enjoy a privilege or benefit that no one else would” as a result of his involvement, which she stated is not the case.
She pointed out that preserving the land as open space would mitigate flooding for the entire surrounding area, as well as providing habitat for animals and birds. She said a recent Wall Street Journal article stated that overall animal populations fell 52% over the past 40 years, and that even faster declines were seen in rivers and fresh water systems such as the Lion Gate property, which comprises one of the “last natural river corridors” in Essex County.
Responsible Bidder Requirements
The council passed an ordinance unanimously on second reading that requires bidders for public construction projects to show that they are properly registered and authorized to conduct the type of work they are bidding on, including compliance with all federal, state and local laws, and that they hold all required licenses, registrations and certificates, as well as a number of other requirements.
In addition, the ordinance requires bidders to conform to environmental, labor, health and safety laws in compliance with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Bidders and their subcontractors must also participate in an apprenticeship program for each separate trade, and they must also affirm that they have made “a good faith effort” to provide 25% of all project work hours to residents of the Township of Bloomfield.
Adoption of Zoning Map
The council also unanimously approved the adoption of an amended zoning map that reflects the recommendations made in the Master Plan Reexamination Report that was adopted by the Bloomfield Planning Board on August 6, 2014, and that incorporates various zone changes and redevelopment areas/plans that were enacted by the governing body since the land development ordinance was adopted in 2005.
In addition to the resolution appointing Samuel DeMaio Acting Director of Police, the council passed a number of other resolutions, including:
- Award of an emergency repair contract to replace the Halcyon Park Fountain wall
- Reappointment of Chief Judge John Paparazzo for the Bloomfield Municipal Court
- Appointments of three public defenders, and
- Salary adjustments for Detectives Charles, Lopez and Romano.
The council also passed a resolution spelling out the procedures for the council to conduct business, including limitations on new items being placed on the agenda of regular meetings. Councilman Joe Lopez questioned the wording of several of the policies and procedures; after suggested changes by Councilwoman Davis, Attorney Brian Aloia agreed to make the changes and the council voted 6-0 to approve the resolution. (Councilman Bernard had stepped out briefly so did not vote).
Police officers Timothy J. Kealy and Donald Grey took their oaths of office.
James Wollner was also sworn in as a trustee of the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center.
The next meeting will be a conference meeting to be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 20, 2014, in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement Building.