Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Council Approves New Layoffs

The governing body approved a second layoff plan Monday, despite an outpouring of support for those affected, including three police captains, a principal planner, animal control staff and the city's sole media worker.

Several employees also spoke forcefully on their own behalf before the 4-3 vote, with council members Rashid Burney, Linda Carter, Cory Storch and Council President Annie McWilliams voting "yes" and William Reid, Bridget Rivers and Adrian Mapp voting "no."

The layoffs will take effect May 22, but Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin, a 29-year veteran, said he will leave the division before taking a demotion to lieutenant. Due for mandatory retirement in January, El-Amin said he will lose $161,000 in pay for a final leave that he planned to start in July.

El-Amin said the Police Benevolent Association offered alternatives to the demotions, but they were not passed on to the council’s Finance Committee. Instead, the governing body only received recommendations from Police Director/Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig. Mapp questioned the process and asked Hellwig to explain his plan. Hellwig said the demotions coupled with hiring of six new officers were meant to keep the table of organization at 151 people.

The plan will leave the Police Division with just three captains, down from six. A seventh captain recently retired. Mapp questioned the effect on morale, but Hellwig said he had “shepherded” another police organization through demotions with no loss of morale. El-Amin later called it a “sad day” and said, “I will leave prematurely because I will not take the demotion.”

Several residents spoke in favor of retaining April Stefel, a certified landscape architect in the Planning Division who is staff liaison to the Shade Tree Commission and manages several other programs, including brownfields studies.

Shade Tree Commission Chairman Gregory Palermo praised Stefel for her “marvelous success” in coming up with grants for tree planting and maintenance.

“The grant money should be thought of as found money,” he said, “but it is not going to be found unless someone is looking for it.”

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Shade Tree Commission.)
Stefel herself explained that she is responsible for more than $5.6 million in grants and that she had suggested her pay could be given back from various grants, but an analysis she made in December was lost or never given to the administration. She detailed the work she puts in to report to state agencies on grant-funded programs, saying the brownfields work alone takes up half her 63 part-time hours per month.

Melissa Trower of the Animal Control Division said she and Shirley Pelley have served the city for 20 years and outsourcing the work would not yield the same care and response time they have provided. Trower cited safety concerns related to a longer wait for dealing with aggressive animals.

Laurence Rice, who produces content for Channel 96, noted the long hours he puts in recording events and suggested he was being targeted for his loyalty to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. But McWilliams said it would not only be immoral and unethical to make such decisions on the basis of politics, it would be illegal.

After the vote, McWilliams said the budget had already been adopted and amendments to it had been unanimously approved. The administration had then submitted the layoff plan. The council could not then decide not to support the plan, she said.

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Rob said...

I agree the the laying off April Stefel is a self defeating move for the city of Plainfield. But, shooting itself in the foot seems to be the M.O. for this city. Are we to assume her honor, Assistant Mayor Sharon will take over the task of getting all that money ??? I think we know the answer to that question already....

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the following ironic:

"Laurence Rice, who produces content for Channel 96, noted the long hours he puts in recording events and suggested he was being targeted for his loyalty to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. But McWilliams said it would not only be immoral and unethical to make such decisions on the basis of politics, it would be illegal."

Well, what goes around, comes around, as they say. Rice shouldn't be at all surprised.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was some irony to Capt. el-Amin's plan to sidestep a demotion and take his $125,000 in 'unused' sick days and retire earlier than planned on April 3rd.

A better plan would make him or one of the other captains Police Chief and change the City Charter to eliminate the positions of Public Safety Director and Director of Public Works and Urban Development.

And while we're on a roll, let's reincorporate PMUA as part of Public Works.

Or, outsource everything to consultants and wait for the 'savings' to trickle back through the campaign coffers of the Mayor and Assemblyman. Feh! These two seem so far behind the curve they don't even see the curve.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Won't effect morale my a**. already has. want to save 125k? abolish the Public Safety director postiion! what a joke. Can't wait until my 25 yrs are done. I hate this City.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the savings generated by these layoffs are relatively small and there are many
cost saving solutions but no one wants to listen. Demoting people from postions the earned the hard way is petty and demeaning and plain wrong. Outsourcing animal control in a city like Plainfield
with so many aggressive animals and
rabies issues to Newark - well good luck with that and good luck finding your pet at the shelter
there if you don't have a car!

A part-time planner who generates millions in grants ? Kudos to Greg Palermo for sticking up for his employee! The saving are pretty short sited and not in the the best interest of the city - I've lived here over twenty years and its time to go somewhere safer.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what happens to the Animal Control Vehicle?

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did any of you think your comments or pleas would work the counsel made there minds up long ago and the fix was in

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1- The Mayor introduced the budget when the year was half over. What do you expect?

2- If Rice is upset that he is being let go because he is supportive of the mayor (who was the person who targeted him - nice friend), then April is being let go because the mayor doesn't like her.

3- Animal control is overwhelmed, inefficient and therefore pretty useless. They should have been managed better and maybe their value would have been noticed, but I saw no usefulness with them (this is not a commentary on their dedication, which is obvious, but a commentary on how their department was archiac and inefficient). There were no follow ups to incidents, no enforcement of licenses, and extensive delays in response times.

4- The captain isn't losing anything. He is just not getting the outrageous perks - like accumulated sick days and vacation time. He is getting out while the getting is good.

Any news on the 2011 budget?

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think April should be hired as the consultant. She'll make more money and have less aggravation.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eliminating several key positions in a city with far too many issues to deal with correctly. More of the usual status quo. Make a city wide furlough day. 4 day work weeks instead of 5. Captain El-Amin is not only an officer, but a true gentleman. Our loss will certainly be someone elses gain. Cant we get rid of Hellwig instead? While I dont know April, she seems like a huge asset to the city, so of course she has to go. Animal control?? Are you kidding? We have enough trouble keeping the 2 legged ones in line, let alone the 4 legged ones. I have met Shirley and she is totally dedicated to her profession and the animals she helps. Another loss. Just more of the same here in Plainfield.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Director Hellwig shepparded anothe department with demotions he sur did they closed up shop no more essex county police dept look it up its true

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for posting my comments even with my typos sorry about that

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did Mapp not vote for it?

9:50 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

In council comments after the vote, Mapp said he was not comfortable with the plan that was put forward by the administration and that he was not convinced it was the best plan.

7:43 AM  

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