PATERSON, NJ – In a tussle that’s dragged on for six months, the City Council and Mayor Jeffrey Jones remain at odds over the city’s administrative salaries.
Matthew Priore, the attorney hired to represent the city council on the issue, has warned the council that members of the Jones administration likely would sue if the council takes action to cut the salaries, according to three city council members.
But Councilman Kenneth Morris said he plans to craft a revised salary reduction ordinance within the next month that would be less vulnerable to a lawsuit.
“If the mayor wants to sue the taxpayers over his compensation along with the compensation of his entourage, that’s a decision he needs to make,’’ said Morris.
“I have said no such thing,’’ said Jones, when asked if he’s planning a lawsuit over the salaries.
In an effort that began back in April, the city council has tried to cut Jones’s $119,000 salary by $24,000, along with the salaries of several of the mayor’s new appointees. The council has based its efforts on the argument their salaries exceed the starting pay stipulated in a 2004 ordinance.
But at the end of May, Jones vetoed the salary reduction ordinance, saying the council was playing politics and trying to intimidate his Cabinet. The Jones administration has argued that the salaries complied with a 2006 ordinance that allowed regular increases to take effect without council approval.
Other salaries the council has targeted are those of Business Administrator Charles Thomas, who makes $114,400; Department of Public Works Director Christopher Coke, who makes $105,000; City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman, who makes $96,430; Health and Human Services Director Donna Nelson-Ivy, who makes $84,790; and Community Development Director Lanisha Makle, who makes $78,190.
Originally, the council had attempted to cut the pay of its three newest members - Andre Sayegh, Julio Tavarez, and Wimberly - from $41,000 to $34,870. But officials said Priore advised them that the law says all council members ought to make the same pay.
Jones expressed frustration with the lengthy battle over his pay and that of his appointees. “I’ll be glad when we’ve put this behind us,’’ the mayor said.
Council President Anthony Davis said he expected the council to tackle the salary question again sometime in October. “It’s going to happen,’’ Davis said.