VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ - Mayor Vic Marotta approached the council and public at the rescheduled Thursday township council meeting to present a “state of the township” address.
Marotta’s annual speech started shortly after council president Patrick Rizutto took a short recess to eat birthday cake and coffee from Dunkin Donuts to celebrate his upcoming birthday, as well as of Marotta's, councilman Eddie Dunn's, and councilman Brian Lynch, who was absent.
The speech highlighted Vernon’s “good” and “not so good” moments from the 2011/2012 year.
“In the total the accomplishments of our township and the work that has been done is one that I think you gentlemen [council], and I, and all of the employees in Vernon Township can certainly be proud of,” explained Marotta, who has been the township's mayor since July 2011.
Marotta then explained, “As you know in the end of 2011, we were able to negotiate all three of our laboring unions four-year contracts for the very first time in the history of this town. In doing so, we were able to negotiate fair contracts.”
The mayor then discussed the Vernon Township Police Department by saying the biggest significant change stemmed from, “The agreement of our patrol into a 12-hour shift. While we had talked about in the past, that 12-hour shift has resulted in some significant benefits to Vernon Township and our people. Without having to hire additional police officers, we now have a minimum of five and in most cases six patrolman on duty in all shifts as opposed to three or four on the eight hour shift. As a result, I am sure all of our residents are seeing patrol cars in areas of the town they have never seen before. In addition, to the fact that we have more patrolman on patrol and by fact that we are responding to the community in a fuller manner, we were able to save almost $50,000 in overtime pay. As a result, we were able to add to our police cruisers in 2012 video cameras. All of them now are equipped for the protection of our residents and our officers.”
Another topic of discussion derived from the denied salary increase of the mayor and council during the November 2012 election process.
“I want to address the issue of raises as they happened in 2012,” explained Marotta, “It was certainly the most talked about, the most written about issue and one of the most bigger disappointments that I had during the 2012 election. Not necessarily the fact that we lost and the issue that people voted it down. I think it is important for you people to know that our department heads and this mayor have not changed anything about the way we approach our jobs. The people who work on behalf of seeing that the job is done continue to do an outstanding job and when we discuss the budget a little later on this month, you will see the savings that have had been afforded to the people of Vernon through the efforts of people who work for Vernon Township.”
Eighty-seven percent of Vernon Township residents were not in favor of the salary increase that would add $20,000 more to Marotta’s salary, yielding $50,000 annually plus benefits.
When Marotta was elected as mayor in July 2011, he had specified that his salary increase would stay where it is. However, six months later he had put the salary ordinance into effect, adding benefits, which ultimately dissatisfied a wide range of residents.
“As we took office we were faced with a very nasty, nasty lawsuit from the lake communities,” said Marotta."When we sat down with the heads of the lake communities and we hashed out what might solve the problem of the lake communities into the proposal that you are all aware of. We now provide salt to the lake communities, when they were buying it they were paying $72 a ton. We bought it for $52 a ton. Do your math. A huge savings. I am proud to tell you as I stand before you this evening every lake community has been paid in full through 2010. The 2011 money is three quarters paid and by the time the first quarter of this year is over, 2011 will be paid. Thank goodness we had a soft year in 2012 for weather, by the end of this year, Vernon Township will be absolutely current on all of those bills. Gentleman, that comes to almost $2 million dollar savings and I am proud to tell you that it only happened because people worked together.”
In other business:
Another lawsuit the town is currently facing is “In the Matter of William Hendrickson and Thomas Van Gorder.”
According to a January 24 issued document, “Hendrickson and Van Gorder had been serving permanently with Vernon Township on a part-time basis since August 31, 2009 and October 20, 2005, respectively. The appellants then separated from employment effective October 14, 2011. Their County and Municipal Personnel System (CAMPS) records reflect resignations in good standing on that date. The appellants appealed their separations, indicating that they were laid off from their positions. Upon receipt of the appeals, the Division of Classification and Personnel Management (CPM) was contacted regarding the CAMPS information. CPM advised that, according to the appointing authority, the appellants’ resignations were entered “in error.” What apparently occurred was that the appellants were offered interviews for a new position, which they did not receive and resulted in their separation from employment. It is noted that that this agency did not receive a layoff plan or copies of notices of layoff from the appointing authority.”
Van Gorder’s wife, Lynn openly expressed her disappointment to The Alternative Press of Sussex County by stating, “Mr. Marotta briefly spoke about how the Township just received an answer on an appeal-issued by The State of New Jersey-Civil Service Commission [issue date January 24, 2013], and said the town would comply with the State's Order. The appeal pertains to the Former Fire Marshal, Thomas Van Gorder [my husband] and William Hendrickson, Former Fire Prevention Specialist, vs. Vernon Township. The Civil Service Commission has ordered Vernon Township to comply with Civil Service Law within 20 days of notice or face fines.”
Van Gorder then explained that her family had received ten pages of documentation from The State of New Jersey Civil Service Commission which “listed example after example as to how Vernon Township mayor and administrator disregarded or circumvented Civil Service Laws/Rules to ‘lay-off’ two long-term employees in order to hire a non-resident, non-civil service employee.”
“The Civil Service Commission listened to our story and ruled based on facts and truth,” said Van Gorder. “This is yet another example of how your average resident/person can use their voice to stand up for themselves when they have been wronged. It may take time, it may be painful at times, it may take a lot of work but it makes you stronger.”
The Alternative Press will continue to release more information on this lawsuit as it becomes available.
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