February 28, 2012 at 6:50 AM
Esposito Remains on Council, Maintains Innocence; Borough Administrator Codey Dismissed as Cost-Saving Measure
MADISON, NJ – Dr. Vincent Esposito, who is under investigation for selling drug prescriptions illegally, made a statement in his own defense at the Madison Borough Council meeting on Feb. 27.
“My life has been turned upside down,” the life-long Madison resident said. “I have been wrongly accused, but I am humbled by the support of friends, the mayor and family. I will not give up.” He continues to serve on council and participated during budget discussions and votes.
His position as medical advisor to the school district football team and high school has not continued, however. The Board of Education was expected to name a replacement at its Tuesday, Feb. 28, meeting.
Mayor Robert Conley recognized the Madison High School Football Team for its 2011 championship season. He also proclaimed Read Across America Day, with Gayle Stein, media specialist at Central Avenue School, dressed as the Cat in the Hat. Another proclamation was given to five Madison Youth Playwrights, who will have readings of their plays on March 17.
Following proclamations, the council got down to budget business. The property tax increase would be limited to 2 percent, Finance Chairman Robert Catalanello said. To return to the borough’s Triple A bond rating, the borough will reduce the surplus slightly, but maintain that surplus for three to five years. “This has been a rigorous, difficult approach,” he said, but the committee has found means to fully fund the library and has identified a number of cost savings.
The most painful decision, to many in the audience and some council members, involved dismissing Borough Administrator Raymond M. Codey, whose salary is $154,000. He would be replaced by Assistant Administrator Jim Burnet, with a reduced salary from $95,000 to $90,000. The move would save the borough $200,000 annually.
Council president Jeannie Tsukamoto referred to “management consolidation.” She made a motion to consolidate the new administrative position. “There’s a massive overlap between the two positions,” Catalanello added. “Most communities have one administrator. Our goal is to serve the residents and taxpayers of this borough.”
“This whole process is embarrassing,” Conley said. “In the past, we’ve reduced positions through attrition. But to name a person on a decision made two weeks ago is a terrible way to run a business and a terrible way to run a borough.” His comment was greeted with audience applause.
Borough Attorney Joseph Mezzacca said an administrator could be removed from office with two-thirds vote of the governing body.
Councilwoman Carmela Vitale referred to Codey as “a great administrator. Look what we’re getting for our money.” She mentioned the reduction in garbage pickup, Board of Health revenues and other cost-saving steps.“This is not in the best interest of our town,” she said.
Conley reiterated his objections. “You’re looking at positions on paper. They do far above what’s listed.Things will fall through the cracks. This is just unbelievable to do it this way.”
Espositio also chimed in. “While I respect the opinions of my colleagues, Mr. Cody has been a great asset to the town of Madison. He has never asked for a raise. This needs further discussion. The move will not make or break this particular budget. It’s not appropriate at this time.”
Thomas Haralampoudis, who serves on the Board of Education, also gave an impassioned plea, saying the council was being “penny wise and pound foolish.” He reminded the council that an assistant administrator had been approved not long ago when there was a need and the two have worked as a team. He praised Cody’s efforts with the Madison Recreation Center, among other accomplishments.
Nevertheless, the council voted 4-2 to eliminate the position.
Discussion of the Community House also came up. Vitale praised the Thursday Morning Club, established in 1924, which supports the Community House through fund raising and donations. It now has 268 members. In addition, she said, 65,000 people make use of the Community House, both nonprofits and after school programs. She urged keeping a $15,000 expenditure for electricity and water intact.
Mayor Conley announced that a budget hearing will be held at the council meeting on March 2, with final adoption on April 9.