After an eight year absence the “Gravy Train” is back in Paterson and the Jones administration was recently joined onboard by former disgraced mayor Marty Barnes.
Amid the Jones Administration overtime scandal former mayor Marty Barnes has declared that he “served dutifully and honorably the entirety of my terms” in his recent application to the state for retirement benefits.
You may remember Barnes was found guilty (and pleaded guilty) of taking $200,000 - $350,000 in bribes and gratuities from city contractors while serving as mayor. Barnes spent 37 months in Federal prison.
Many elected officials serve the best interests of their constituents. But a few, like Barnes, choose to serve themselves by misusing their office to line their own pockets. The Pension Board has since denied his request stating Barnes crimes were for “self gain” that “tainted the ideal of public service.” Sadly Mayor Jeffery Jones administration has many examples of the same “self gain” that “taints the ideal of public service.”
Jones first act as mayor was to increase his own $95,000 salary to $119,000. At the same time he created a “Chief of Staff” position for his friend and campaign manager Charles Pettiford. Pettiford’s salary is a whopping $105,000! - almost 90% of the mayor’s salary. When Pettiford was asked what his duties as Chief of Staff are he said, “...as confidant to the mayor.”
Another Jones pal, Charles Thomas, was installed as Business Administrator at the newly increased B.A. salary of $114,400. And pal Christopher Coke was placed at the head of DPW with a salary increase from $83,000 to $105,000. Jones top administration salaries, benefits, and perks may be costing the Paterson taxpayer more than $1 million annually!
Then in late August another opportunity for Jones and his friends arose - Hurricane Irene and the infamous overtime checks. Last week the Municipal Council began hearings into the overtime scandal “OT-Gate” by calling members of the Jones administration (including the mayor) to testify. OT-Gate is where salaried members of the Jones administration (including the mayor) submitted overtime requests for working during Hurricane Irene. Top salaried administration officials received more than $50,000 in checks from FEMA for “emergency duties” during the hurricane. It should be noted that only after a Herald News investigation were those checks returned. (Hasn’t any member of this administration looked up the definition of “salary” - it means “fixed amount”).
Jones Chief of Staff, Pettiford, was one of the first called to testify about his work during the storm and justify his check for more than $5,000. At the hearing Pettiford said he “could not recall the emergency duties he performed during and after Hurricane Irene” but that he “was entitled to the overtime check because he watched an online video.”
Acting personnel director Betty Taylor has received $17,000 in overtime this year. She is also under review regarding a $43,000 home improvement HUD loan approved by Jones’ Community Development Director Lanisha Makle. When called to testify about her role in the OT-Gate scandal Taylor contradicted herself several times. When asked what circumstances would allow the mayor to receive overtime she said “...in an emergency.” But when asked to state the policy that permits overtime being paid to the mayor she said she “isn’t aware of any policy.”
The job of the Municipal Council is to expose the truth. Jones insolent and provocative attitude was exhibited at the first council hearing when he was called to testify. Jones made a brief statement and then walked out of the council chamber proclaiming the council a “kangaroo court.”
Council members immediately voiced their disappointment in Jones behavior. Councilman Morris compared Jones to a “spoiled child in need of discipline” and went on to say “I can’t wait until 2014”; Councilman McKoy called his behavior “shameful”; and Councilman Goow said, “That’s what a coward does.”
Jones likes to proclaim his service in the Marine Corps and frequently holds up his service card to document his service. While no one questions that he did serve, the Corps sums up its moral code in three words: honor, courage, commitment. There is very little honor, courage and commitment in a mayor that exploits his office for personal financial gain and then behaves like a “spoiled child in need of discipline.”
Jones also likes to invoke his “rights” and the “rights’ of those serving in his administration. What Jones doesn’t understand is with rights comes responsibilities - the responsibility to be held accountable to the people of Paterson. To further quote Councilman Morris, “I can’t wait until 2014!”
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