Friday, February 03, 2006

Bonaparte Signs Contract, Awaits Council Vote

Acting Administration & Finance Director Norton Bonaparte Jr. has signed a contract to become the first city manager of Topeka, Kans.

Bonaparte and Topeka Acting City Manager Neil Dobler both confirmed Friday (Feb. 3, 2006) that the contract was signed and that the next step is for the Topeka City Council to approve it. The Topeka council will discuss it Tuesday and although it is not on the agenda, Dobler said five members could vote to put it on for approval.

Bonaparte, who was Plainfield’s city administrator from April 2003 to December 31, 2005, declined to say much more about the matter until it is finalized.

In November 2004, Topeka voters agreed to change their form of government from a mayor-council format to a council-city manager plan. If confirmed, Bonaparte would be the first to hold the position and would be in charge of all the city’s fiscal and administrative responsibilities.

Bonaparte and his wife, Santa, visited Topeka after he emerged as finalist in a field of 30 candidates.

“My wife and I were very impressed with the city,” he said Friday. “We’ll see what happens with the City Council.”

Topeka has a very sophisticated web site at that includes online council agendas, a lot of information about the city, which is the capital of Kansas, and one element that may be of interest to New Jersey politicians on a quest to rid the Garden State of corruption.

A unique feature, the “Topeka City of Character” page features monthly expositions on traits such as self-control, patience, responsibility and justice.

Dobler said the word of the month is featured not only on the city web site, but also on billboards, in newspapers and in the school district.

The “Character” program is also in effect in other cities.

“It’s really taken hold around here,” he said. “It’s really community-wide.”

Dobler said when the new word appears on billboards and other sites, it perks peoples’ interest.

“It’s just become kind of commonplace,” he said. “When the new word comes out, people stop and think about it.”

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: administration