RARITAN, NJ - The Raritan Borough Council was presented with a draft anti-nepotism ordinance at its second May meeting, but it only furthered the contentious discussion that ended without action.
Councilman Pablo Orozco had worked over the past two weeks with councilman Michael Patente and borough attorney Bill Robertson on the project.
When the draft ordinance was open for discussion, Patente quickly explained, “There is no corruption, that’s not the reason for this.”
Mayor Zachary Bray and the rest of the council seemed unconvinced that the anti-nepotism policy was needed in Raritan, and that it wouldn’t be too restrictive in a town of about 7,000 people.
“Everything is in there but the kitchen sink,” said councilman Paul Giraldi. “This is a small town and there are very few people to work with, this will limit us and I’m not sure what value we will get out of it.”
Orozco countered, “I think we have a lot to gain from it.”
He has been trying to move this process forward for months. He said all of the surrounding towns have this policy in place and Raritan is playing catchup.
Robertson stepped in to clarify that the draft was created simply for discussion purposes. He said the two main components that need to be agreed upon are defining who is included in “family members” and what positions it would apply to, such as, boards, committees, volunteers or seasonal help.
Giraldi said he has lived with anti-nepotism policies in the corporate world and in Trenton, but this is a small town.
“We don’t have an issue that I know of, I don’t know that we’re having any hiring issues, I don’t know of any in the 10 years I’ve sat here,” he said.
Orozco disagreed. He said three people have turned down the DPW supervisor job.
Prospective employees, he said, want to see something like this in place, no manager wants to have a family member forced on them from higher up.
Other concerns were raised by council president Nicolas Carra, who said they need to consider who works for the town and what impact that might have on someone being able to run for council.
“That’s exactly the point of an anti-nepotism ordinance,” said Orozco.
He contended that not having this policy in place is what’s causing some people not to run for office, join boards or volunteer.
“That problem is being generated by the nepotism that already exists in town,” he said “Many of you are a little too close to this to be able to see that it is a problem.”
Councilwoman Joyce Melitsky, who said that her family has been here since the early 1900s, was concerned about some of the language and comments being generated online about why this policy is being considered.
Others were concerned about the lack of specificity and that thee may be too many limitations in the draft ordinance.
“It’s very restrictive,” said councilwoman Joan Hutzler, “a bit too much for a town like Raritan.”
The mayor explained, “The fact that all of us have multigenerational families here is why it’s a problem for all of us. Our families are here and have been here forever so the people we all know and are closest to we also happen to be related to. I know what you’re saying, but that’s a fact. We can’t change who we are and who we’re related to and are close enough to to ask to get involved.”
Still Orozco held firm.
“Maybe when it comes to tax dollars it shouldn’t be a family decision,” he said.
Orozco confirmed that he wasn’t seeking to remove anyone from a position they are currently in, anyone in place when the law is ultimately passed would be grandfathered.
“I’m just talking about moving forward,” he said.
It was decided that council members would send their comments and suggestions to the attorney and councilmen Orozco and Patente so that a more specific and defined policy can be drafted.