PATERSON, NJ - Passaic County prosecutors are trying to determine whether criminal charges brought by an employee against Paterson Community Development Director Lanisha Makle should be referred to a grand jury for possible indictment or handled in municipal court, according to a story on northjersey.com
Brian Sweeney, who was the city's economic development director until he was demoted in January, filed a complaint against Makle on April 6 accusing her of giving false information to a law enforcement officer to implicate him, according to city documents.
In January, Sweeney was demoted to economic development specialist and he was reassigned to work at City Hall at the mayor's office, official said. Since then, the mayor has been serving as the city's acting economic development director, said Paterson Business Administrator Charles Thomas.
For Paterson taxpayers, the dispute between Makle and Sweeney represents more than simply a squabble between two of Mayor Jeffrey Jones' appointees. One of the key factors in Paterson's recent budget crisis was the city's dwindling tax base, and officials have said that attracting new businesses and development is essential to averting future fiscal crises.
When asked what impact the turmoil involving the economic development division has had on Paterson's ability to attract businesses, Thomas said, "None, none whatsoever.''
When asked for examples of projects being drawn to the city, Thomas said, "I know there are things in the hopper, but I can't give you details. You have to talk to the mayor about that.'' Jones did not return a phone message left at his city hall office seeking his input for this story.
Council members say they are unimpressed with the Jones administration's performance on economic development.
"I haven't see much of anything,'' said Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee.
"I'm interested in results,'' said Councilman Andre Sayegh. "I've repeated asked for regular reports on economic development and haven't gotten anything.''
At public meetings his year, Jones has said the creation of the Great Falls National Park will draw tourism and businesses to Paterson and he has talked about the possibility of a hotel opening in that area. Jones also has discussed plans for expanding the role of the city utilities authority in producing hydraulic energy as well the possibility of creating energy through solar panels on public buildings.
Although Makle's position requires oversight of the economic development division, that was not her area of expertise. Her qualifications came under criticism during her confirmation hearing.
Employees in her department have complained about her management style. Morris said there have been about 15 or 16 grievances filed against her by city workers.
Prior to the Sweeney incident, Makle also called for police help back in September, shortly after she took the job.
In that case, Makle believed two department employees were acting in a threatening manner, according to a police report, the northjersey.com story said. The officer at the scene advised Makle that the confrontation was little more than an argument, according to a police report, the story said.
Makle's attorney, Frank Sciro, commented on the Sweeney case in the northjersey.com article.
"It is unfortunate that a complaint was filed in this case,'' he said. "This is not a matter for the criminal courts."