HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Township Administrator Anthony Ferrara and Deputy Mayor Gloria McCauley have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the township Ethical Standards Board in connection with an ethics complaint filed against them in October, which alleged that McCauley, a realtor, benefited from the sale of Ferrara’s home after McCauley and other members of the Township Committee approved a pay raise for Ferrara.
The complaint was filed by a group of Democrats in the midst of the local election campaign; McCauley, a Republican, was running for reelection to the Township Committee; she won by a comfortable margin. Ferrara, also a longtime resident of the township, is a former Republican mayor and committee member.
According to the complaint, which had 21 signatures, Ferrara received a salary adjustment of 5.45 percent in June, amounting to $7,895.
Township Clerk Pamela Borek said it was the first the ethics complaint she has seen since she began work for the township almost seven years ago.
Salary adjustments are routine, according to Borek, given to non-union managers and department heads after approval by the five-member Township Committee.
There were 7 salary adjustments in 2016-17; 7 in 2015-16 and 8 in 2014-15, according to Borek.
The Ethics Complaint, dated Oct. 2 reads in part, “We believe that Committeewoman McCauley and Administrator Ferrara used their positions in the Hillsborough Township Committee and administration to their own personal gain.”
The complaint contends the vote to adjust Ferrara’s salary and the real estate commission received by McCauley from the sale of his former home on Hoagland Court in August violated four state statutes, the first of which reads:
“No local government officer or employee or member of his immediate family shall have an interest in a business organization or engage in business transaction, or professional activity, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.”
Township Attorney William J. Willard responded to the complaint immediately after it was filed:
“The fact of the matter is each year the Township evaluates and adjusts the annual salaries of employees as appropriate. The evaluation process includes analysis of the annual salaries being paid to local government employees in other municipalities based on job title and responsibilities.
“The Township followed this same procedure for 2017 culminating in the adoption of a Resolution establishing the annual salaries and wages of 34 of its municipal employees. Committeewoman McCauley was one of the five who voted in favor of this Resolution. The annual salary of Administrator Ferrera was included in the Resolution and he did receive a salary adjustment based on his service to the Township as Administrator, Deputy Clerk, ADA Director and Deputy Zoning Officer.
“Even with the salary adjustment, Administrator Ferrera remains one of the lower paid Administrators in the local area.
“Administrator Ferrera’s subsequent listing of his residence for sale with Committeewoman McCauley had absolutely nothing to do with the unanimous Resolution adopted by the Township Committee. Committeewoman McCauley is a local realtor. Committeewoman McCauley and Administrator Ferrera have known each other for many years so it is not at all unusual that when he made the decision to sell his residence he listed the property with her.
“To infer one event was contingent upon the other is nothing more than disingenuous partisan politics. There was no violation of the Local Government Ethics Law and the Ethics Complaint is without merit,” Willard concluded.
The Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint at a meeting last weekend.
“I am extremely disappointed that this frivolous ethics charge, which was partisan politics at its lowest, was brought into Hillsborough by the local Democrats,” McCauley said. “While I am clearly pleased with the decision of the local Ethics Board, which completely exonerated me, I knew that I did not do anything wrong, therefore, I was confident the Ethics Board would come to that decision.
“I find it sad that the Hillsborough Democrats attempted to assassinate my character as a means to impact a local election. I am also very grateful to the voters of Hillsborough for seeing through this partisan attack and ensuring that the strong Republican leadership in Hillsborough will continue.”
Ferrara was also pleased to be exonerated.
“I have been actively involved in the Hillsborough community for the last 27 years,” he said. Over the years, I have dedicated my time and efforts to serve the Hillsborough Community through my community service and work with various charitable organizations.
“I have also served the township directly as a member of the Township Committee and Mayor. I have always worked, not out of self-interest, but for the betterment of the Hillsborough Community and Township.
To suggest there was a connection between my 2017 salary adjustment and the subsequent listing of my home with Committeewoman McCauley was simply untrue,” his statement continues. “The township followed the same procedure as always in implementing annual salary adjustments.
“I am extremely disappointed the opposing party chose to impugn my character with the filing of a frivolous Ethics Complaint just prior to the election for political gain,” he added. “ We see this type of politics on the national and state level, but it is particularly disheartening to see it at the local municipal level.
“I never felt there was a conflict of interest or ethics violation. The Ethics Board's confirmation of that fact and dismissal of the complaint hopefully ends the matter so we can focus our attention on the operations of the township to ensure Hillsborough remains one of the Best Places to Live in America,” Ferrara said.