Monthly Archives: October 2010

FROM THE ARCHIVES: April 12, 1993: “The taxpayers should not have to pay”

The SLH Borough Council met on May 10, 1993 to hold the public hearing for that year’s Salary & Wage Ordinance. The governing body consisted of: Mayor Adams, Councilmen Russo-Alesi, Tully, Bruton, Clark, Herner, and Malick.

One resident spoke at the public hearing.  According to the meeting minutes:

“Winnie Walsh, Jason Drive, asked % of increase. Mayor responded that a 6% increase had been negotiated with the Department of Public Works and that same percentage had been give to all other employees. She commented that in these times, it is too high and the taxpayers should not have to pay when they have nothing to say in the negotiations. Questioned health insurance for employees, feels employees should absorb some of that cost.”

After Mrs. Walsh spoke, the Council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance with no changes.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: February 18, 1992 and additional dates: “Retirement Package”

AT a February 18, 1992 special meeting, the members of the Borough Council present were: Mayor Adams, Councilmen Herner, Russo-Alesi, Tully, Bruton, and Clark. Councilman Malick was absent, as was Borough Attorney Blasi. Borough Administrator/Deputy Clerk Horner was present, as was Borough Clerk Claire Barrett

At the beginning of the meeting, a closed session was held. From the minutes, here is the account of that meeting:

“Council returned after ten minutes and Mayor Adams explained for the record that proposals for a retirement package after 25 years service for an employee were discussed. The employee would retire with a vested pension and one consideration was the payment to  him for his “sick day bank” which is provided for in the Borough Code. The Attorney will finalize an agreement to be offered to the employee for signing within five days, which will include a provision that the Borough will continue to provide the employee and family with the full health care coverage paid for by the Borough until he attains sixty-five (65) years of age. Council believes that the retirement agreement will save budget money in future years as the employee will not be specifically replaced, at least in the near future. No formal actions or votes were required or taken in the closed session.”

This was not an uncommon retirement package. When Public Works Superintendent Frank Walton retired in 1987 after 33 years of service, the resolution granting his retirement package read:

Resolution #42 Resolution Accepting Retirement of Superintendent of Public Works Department and Outlining Benefits to be Given

RESOLVING that Frank Walton be permitted to retire and, in consideration of granting such permission, that he be given the following benefits: 1) that he will be entitled to any retroactive pay increase from January 1, 1987 to his final day of retirement.; 2) that he will be entitled to cash payment, upon retirement, of his accumulated sick leave credits in the amount of fifth (50%) per cent of his unused accumulated sick leave as recorded, based on his rate of pay on his effective retirement date; 3) that he shall be entitled to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Major Medical, Rider 3 benefits and dental plan benefits, all family coverage, from his effective date of retirement until he shall have attained the age of sixty years and on his attainment of sixty years of age, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Major Medical and Ride J benefits, all family coverage, shall also be continued up to his sixty-fifth year of age, as per the medical benefits code now in effect; and further resolving that his final retirement date will be determined consistent with the most benefit to him and according to PERS dictates and is expected to be on or about the date of July 1, 1987.

The roll call vote to accept this retirement package was: AYES: Bruton, Tully, Tisch, Whitworth, Herner, Malick. NAYS: None.

So, granting full paid health benefits to an employee retiring prior to age 65 appears to have been the standard proceedure, and may have save money as the Borough would not have spent as much on benefits as on salaries.

However, what happened if the retiree got both?

After the discussion of February 18, 1992, at the February 24, 1992 regular meeting of the Council, it is announced that the police chief will be retiring. On a motion by Tully/Russo-Alesi, the mayor is authorized to sign an agreement. According to the meeting minutes:

“The agreement will provide the full health benefit package … for 15 years until he becomes 65 years of age, and also includes a 1992 salary increase of 15%.”

The minutes went on to note that the Chief would “also be entitled to a 50% payout of his accumulated sick leave bank.”

All council members voted “aye.”

The full health benefits granted in 1992 for 15 years means that taxpayers paid for these until 2007.

Since the pension payment is calculated on the best 3 years that someone worked, and the raises in 1990 and 1991 were 8%, the retiree’s final pension was based on:  an 8% raise in 1990 plus a 9% longevity raise; an 8% raise in 1991 plus a 9% longevity raise; a 15% raise in 1992 plus a 9% longevity raise.

This equals a 58% salary increase over 3 years.

Borough Candidate Threatens Heightsonline with Lawsuit

Heightsonline believes in open government. The times of back room deals and smoke-filled rooms are over. In the 21st Century, the workings of a democracy should not be hidden from the people. Politicians must be held responsible for what they say and do.

Click here to read the letter Heightsonline received from Democratic Council candidate, John E. “Jack” Tully, threatening to sue for “false and derogatory comments.”

Heightsonline would like to take this opportunity to remind our readers that the information found on this site is taken from the transcripts of the borough council meetings, from previously published articles that have appeared in any newspaper, and from SLH Borough Council meeting minutes.

All these sources are public record.

Meeting minutes are the documents of record for the Council meetings. The old meeting minutes are easily obtained. Years 1991 to present day are housed in the vaults at the Borough Hall and may be reviewed by anyone. Photocopies of pages may be requested.

Years 1990 and earlier are housed at the Monmouth County Archives, located in the basement of the Monmouth County Library, 125 Symmes Road, Manalapan. Call 732-308-3771 to make an appointment to review the minute books. The staff will make copies, or visitors may use a digital camera to photograph the pages.

Most newspapers have online searchable archives. Access to old articles usually costs a small subscription fee.

The Borough Council meetings are recorded and any citizen may request a copy of the recording under the Open Public Records Law. Or, because the meeting is already being taped, anyone in attendance may audio tape a meeting. A video tape may be made by notifying the municipal clerk 24 hours in advance.

Previously published articles and government documents are readily available, if one knows where to find them. Heightsonline provides a place where citizens can easily find public information.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: May 10, 1993: Why is the Borough “pushing people out of their homes?”

At the May 10, 1993 Borough Council meeting a resident got up during the Voice of the Public and asked about condemnation proceedings against a homeowner next to Allaire Road Park. The resident asked why the Borough is “pushing people out of their homes?”

Heightsonline checked with some long-time residents in the neighborhood of Allaire Road Park. Asking not to be identified, sources said that the threatened homeowner was Mary Fletcher, at the time an elderly widow in her 80’s. Reportedly, the Borough wanted to acquire her 2.5 acre tract of land for playing fields. Apparently, the Council at the time decided against condemnation proceedings and began talks to acquire the property via purchase.

Purchase of the property was completed in 2008. In response to a petition by the residents neighboring the Fletcher Property, both the SLH Environmental Commission and the Council subsequently passed resolutions declaring the best use of the property was as an arboretum with walking trails and a picnic area.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: March 23, 1992: “Raises of 6.34% to all”

The introducing of the 1992 Salary & Wage Ordinance was held on March 23, 1992. According to the meeting minutes:

Ordinance No. 5-1992 Salary and Wage 1992

“Administrator Horner read the ordinance by title which effectively grants negotiated across the board raises of 6.34% to all employees and Mayor Adams opened the discussion.”

All Councilpersons votes ‘aye’ to move the ordinance forward.

On April 13, 1992, no one speaks at the public hearing. On a motion by Herner and Tully, it is moved to a final reading. Only Councilman Russo-Alesi votes “no” against it. All others vote ‘aye.’

It is unclear from the minutes if the Council is voting for a 6.34% increase to salaries, or a 6 and 3/4% increase.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: May 1, 1989: “A 7% increase”

On May 1, 1989, the Spring Lake Heights Borough Council met to adopt the budget and take care of some other business. Among this included a discussion of what had taken place during a closed session early in the evening:

“Tully stated that discussion in the closed session, now divulged, was to settle some 1989 salary levels for individuals who are not part of a negotiating unit. Council poll showed agreement to draft a salary ordinance for introduction at the 5/8 meeting proposing a 7% increase for those individuals.”

Previously, at the March 6 meeting, “Mayor Adams suggested that an 8 and 1/2% raise might be appropriate but council poll showed no favor for this.”  Fortunately, even the Spring Lake Heights Council had a tipping point and, clearly, 8 and 1/2% was it.  However, while they would not bite for 8 and 1/2%, the Council did vote for 8% across the board raises for the next two years in a row.

The 1989 Salary & Wage Ordinance, complete with 7% raises, passed on May 22, 1989.

BREAKING NEWS: MAYOR ENRIGHT VETOES ANTI-EMINENT DOMAIN MEASURE

Democratic Mayor Frances Enright today vetoed a new anti-eminent domain law that was passed by the Borough Council with a 4-1 vote on Monday night, October 25. Democratic Councilman John Brennan was the dissenting vote.

Republican Councilwomen Patricia Cindea and Sara King and Democratic Councilwomen Kathleen Crippen and Lynn Kegelman voted in favor of the law. Republican Councilman Gavino Maccanico was absent.

The law was designed to protect the rights of private property owners. It states that in the event a redevelopment zone is created, private residential or commercial property could not be taken by eminent domain  for private development purposes without the written consent of the property owner.

Several years ago, the Borough had discussed the possibility of creating a redevelopment zone north of Allaire Road along Highway 71 and east to the railroad. The owner of several of the properties within that zone attended Monday’s Council meeting. After the law passed, Mayor Enright, who also chairs the municipal Democratic Committee, noted she might veto the ordinance and the property owner applauded loudly.

Check back later for a transcript of the Council discussion and vote on the law.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: March 18, 1991: “Extending the 8% increase.”

On March 18, 1991, the Spring Lake Heights Borough Council met to discuss the 1991 Salary & Wage Ordinance. In 1990, it had been determined that all borough employees would receive an 8% salary increase. In 1991, the official meeting minutes relate this:

Ordinance No. 4-1991 Salary & Wage 1991

“Mayor Adams called on Administrator Horner who stated that when council introduced the 1991 budget they had provided salary and wage levels in all departmental appropriations that would be sufficient to extend the 8% increase provided to all contract employees to all other employees as well. The Administrator related that this included six managerial persons, full-time dispatchers, part time officials and all temporary hourly wage employees, and read the ordinance by title.”

When the ordinance was introduced on April 8, 1991, no member of the public spoke at the public hearing. The Ordinance was adopted with a vote of all “aye.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES: April 17, 1990 — “Putting Attorney Blasi on the Payroll.”

From the April 17, 1990 minutes of the SLH Borough Council:

“Tully discussed a matter of putting Attorney Blasi on the payroll as respects a portion of his required meeting attendance only. He said this would allow him to purchase health insurance through the borough group but no other benefits as a parttime employee. Whitworth discussed that the borough would also have to pay towards his PERS pension, social security and U/D benefits which Tully said would cost a small amount. Bruton said it would be like the judge and the prosecutor. Council agreed in majority that this would be included in the ordinance.”

Subsequently, at the April 23, 1990 discussion on the Salary & Wage Ordinance, it was agreed to pay the Borough Attorney an additional $4,200 over the regular legal fees. This would pay for the attorney’s attendance at Council meetings.

On May 14, 1990, Resolution No. 64-1990 To Name A Salaried Borough Attorney: Robert B. Blasi, Present Attorney was adopted with all ‘aye’ votes.

Mr. Blasi today serves as the Borough’s representative to the Southern Monmouth Regional Sewage Authority (SMRSA) at an annual salary of $2,000 plus a full health benefits package worth approximately $20,000. The SMRSA salary makes Mr. Blasi eligible in the New Jersey State Pension System.

Currently, the Borough Attorney position is  not salaried and does not grant any benefits.

FROM THE ARCHIVES, 1988: Part-time Benefits for Council Members

On Monday, May 9, 1988, the public hearing was held for the 1988 Salary & Wage Ordinance. No one spoke at the public hearing. Councilmen Jack Tully and Frank Russo-Alesi made the motion and second for the hearing to be closed, and then to move the ordinance to adoption.

However, Republican Councilman Jack Whitworth stopped at this point to make a very pertinent observation. Heightsonline repeats, word for word, what is contained in the public record:

“Whitworth said that inclusion of Medical Benefits for part-time councilpersons was a bad precident. Tisch [Councilwoman Marjorie Tisch] asked if any other part-time employees were granted coverage and the answer was no.”

The four Democrats on Council, including Councilman Tully, voted yes for the ordinance, including granting themselves medical benefits. The two Republicans, Whitworth and Tisch, voted no.

The ordinance was adopted, including benefits for part-time councilpersons. Heightsonline is still trying to confirm when this practice was repealed.

The practice of voting oneself benefits would have been questionable in any year, but particularly in 1988. In that year, the Borough was in such dire straights financially that a referendum vote was held to exceed the 4.5% cap by 11.25%.

At a February 22, 1988 budget workshop to discuss how finances would be handled, Council President Jack Tully indicated that he would “oppose going to referendum.”

The referendum, held Marh 22, 1988, won: “NO”, 395 votes, and “YES,” 666 votes.