PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Jeffrey Jones is not giving up his top managers without a fight.
On the day after the City Council voted to fire Chief of Staff Charles Pettiford and suspend Business Administrator Charles Thomas for 60 days as punishment for their roles in Paterson’s overtime scandal, the mayor on Thursday said they would remain in their jobs as far as he was concerned.
“I have my own recourse and I’ll explore all the options,’’ Jones told PatersonPress.com.
The mayor declined to explain what “recourse” he was considering. “I’m not going to talk about it,’’ he said.
One likely possibility would be an appeal of Wednesday’s decision by Superior Court Judge Thomas F. Brogan that said the city council had the authority to terminate, suspend or admonish city employees.
“I’m not satisfied,’’ Jones said on Thursday, just hours before the city council was scheduled to consider disciplinary action against two more of his top managers, Community Development Directot Lanisha Makle and Personnel Director Betty Taylor, for their involvement in the overtime situation.
“Obviously, the mayor’s at liberty to explore whatever he wants,’’ said Councilman Kenneth Morris, who has lead the overtime inquiry. “But while he’s doing that exploration, Charles Thomas will be suspended and Charles Pettiford will no longer be an employee of the City of Paterson.’’
“If Mr. Pettiford receives any checks from the city subsequent to his termination, it will be considered theft,’’ Morris added. “And anyone who issues, authorizes or is responsible for such a check will be brought up on charges as well.’’
When told of Jones’ position, Councilman Andre Sayegh said, “I’m deeply disappointed. A judge ruled the council has this authority. Why would he defy a judge’s order?’’
Neither Pettiford nor Thomas could be reached for comment.
When asked who would oversee the city’s day-to-day operations while Thomas was suspended, Jones said, “I don’t know that it’s going to happen.’’
When asked about Pettiford’s employment status, Jones said, “Unless he takes a vacation day, I expect him to be doing his job.’’
Under the resolutions approved by the city council Wednesday night, Pettiford’s termination was supposed to take effect immediately and Thomas’ suspension was supposed to start on July 2.
Here’s a copy of the city council report that was the basis for the disciplinary action.