BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council just barely approved an ordinance that set financial compensation for the town’s mayor, council members, department heads and certain other municipal employees.
The measure, which had been tabled at an earlier council meeting, was passed by a 3-2 vote following a public hearing.
No one from the audience of nearly two dozen individuals spoke during the public portion of the hearing before the council cast its votes. But concerns arose from council members regarding a proposed increase for the township's director of finance.
Township administrator James Naples said before the vote that he supported an increase for the director of finance.
Council vice president Matthew Moench, who ultimately voted against the ordinance, said the increase for the finance director did not go through the budget process. He added that the salary increase of 2 percent should have been increased through the budget.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso, who cast the other “no” vote, said there had been a previous discussion on where the council stood in June, a night when he said that he and Naples had gone back-and-forth on the then-proposed ordinance. It was said that Pedroso had recommended increases on previous occasions, although the councilman admitted he did not necessarily recall that himself.
Pedroso added that he had asked Naples for documentation, and had received it 10 days later.
“I concur with (Councilman) Moench’s reasoning, and vote no,” Pedroso said.
Council president Christine Henderson Rose, who voted for the ordinance along with councilmen Allen Kurdyla and Howard Norgalis, said the measure ultimately passed by simple majority.
At the council’s previous meeting, which was held on June 18, Moench had mentioned the salary increase for the position of finance director, which he added had not been in the budget, and asked if he had misunderstood. Naples replied that there had been money available in, and subsequently used from, the salary adjustment budget.
Moench inquired if it had been a routine increase and Naples said it had not, but that it had been discussed back in March, along with the hiring of another employee.
Originally, the ordinance was then put up for ratification at that point, by Kurdyla, but no one else on the council seconded the measure. Moench then proposed an amendment regarding the financial director, with the position’s salary returning to where it had been in the budget, which he said was around $126,000 annually.
Pedroso said at that time that he would second such a measure.
“(That’s) the only change I’m proposing,” Moench said.
Naples countered that the salary had been put in the budget, and added that the council had previously supported the increase for the CFO in March.
“I explained the recommended increase,” Naples said in June. “You said she was doing a fantastic job, along with the clerk, who’s also doing a fantastic job.”
Pedroso then withdrew his second, just before Moench withdrew his motion to amend.
The council then voted at the June meeting to table the ordinance by a 4-1 count, with Rose voting against tabling it. It remained dormant until it was passed, barely, in late July.