Council Demands Answers from Mayor and Health Director

Credits: Brittney M. Brown

PATERSON, NJ - A city council workshop session that featured a special appearance from two city officials, including Mayor Jeffrey Jones, sparked heated discussions and at times, frustration on both sides.

Jones and Donna Ivy, director of the Department of Health, were called upon to address two of the city’s most pressing issues. Jones was confronted about the latest Community Development project and Ivy was asked for details surrounding a food licensing discrepancy. Councilmembers sought clarity on the separate issues while the city officials sought fair expectations.

When more than 10 street vendors attended a city council meeting, looking for answers to why their food vehicle licensees were not renewed, the City Council found itself having more questions than answers.

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Later, Ivy revealed there were gaps within the food licensing system; gaps the Department of Health and the Finance Department were working diligently to fill.

Councilman Julio Tavarez showed his disapproval of current licensee’s being denied renewal for the following year, calling it unfair.  Ivy said license renewal cannot be guaranteed by the city and the first come, first serve policy makes license distribution fair for everyone.

Tavarez questioned Ivy on the procedures of the department, pointing out that the department had exceeded its 20-person limit by one. 

Ivy said she was unsure of why the maximum was exceeded but would be sure to ask the appropriate parties.

“This is not my day-to-day job, councilman,” said Ivy.

“That’s what you get paid for,” replied Tavarez.

After the exchange, Jones consoled Ivy.

“Are you OK?” asked Jones.

“Yeah, I’m good,” replied Ivy.

“I know you’re good, that’s why I hired you.”

But it would soon be Jones’ time to face the council. The council was dismayed by the actions of Community Development Director Lanisha Mackle, who Jones appointed to office.

Mackle submitted a resolution authorizing the submittal of the 2013 action plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The deadline to submit the action plan to HUD was Sunday, March 26, 2013.

Councilman Ken Morris, the chair of the Community Development committee, pointed out flaws in the resolution. Morris says he was surprised to see the resolution on the workshop agenda because Mackle had failed to present a final draft at the last committee meeting. 

In addition to not having presented the resolution, the numbers were “completely off,” according to Morris. The consolidated plan was cited to total more than $4.6 million which was about $500 thousand less than what the plan will actually cost after reading the resolution in it’s entirety.

Jones says he will bring the concerns up with Mackle.

The council Rice noticed Mackle last week and plans to issue a vote of no confidence.

Morris says it’s nothing personal but just doesn’t think she’s the right person for the job.

“This department is the most critical. It’s responsible for the economic development in the city,” said Morris.

Mackle is expected to attend the next regular city council Meeting next Tuesday.

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