PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Andre Sayegh is adding a new member to his inner office team next week, according to a statement released by his office Monday.
Jessica Diaz, whom the statement said lives in Paterson and “remains active in her community,” will assume the position of Public Information Officer (PIO), serving as "a liaison between the administration and the public and provide information to media outlets across the region." Currently employed as a government representative in the Public Affairs division of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, Diaz will receive a salary of $60,000.
The salary, the statement continued, does not increase the salary and wage budget for the Office of the Mayor as the position was created following the retirement of long time administrative assistance Alana Onorato whose final salary was reported to be $71,000.
“I am thrilled that Jessica Diaz will be joining us in City Hall,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh. “She brings with her experience in public affairs from numerous positions as well as a self-starter attitude that will fit in perfectly with my team. Jessica will help us expand our outreach to the Spanish-speaking community, as well as plan more public forums and events to increase our engagement with all residents and business owners in our great city.”
Diaz, who will start in the job on Tuesday, May 28, and report directly to Chief of Staff Kathleen Long, has previously held positions in the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office and the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as an internship with the Office of Congressman Bill Pascrell.
Lamenting what she termed a “lack of transparency” surrounding the hiring Paterson City Council President Martiza Davila suggested that Sayegh should have consulted the body’s personnel committee before making the appointment.
“If (Sayegh) wants a good working relationship he has to be open,” Davila said, concluding that simply deciding to hire “political allies is unacceptable.”
Diaz is the daughter of Miguel Diaz, appointed by Sayegh in December to serve in the non-paying position of Deputy Mayor of Community Engagement.
While the hiring has been met with criticism there is precedent for municipalities filling such a role, according to research conducted by TAPinto Paterson, including in Hoboken, a community of just over 50,000 residents, where the job pays $95,000 annually and Westfield, where the position is considered part time and pays $40,000 for a population of 30,000.
In Plainfield, a city of just under 50,000 residents, the dual role of chief of staff and director of communication pays $115,000, according to an OPRA request filed by TAPinto Plainfield.
Citing “new projects and the upcoming census” 5th Ward Councilman Luis Velez offered that he had “no problem” with the hiring. “It is important that our mayor has a qualified team around him, that he’s equipped to make sure constituents get the information they need.”
Speaking to the media for the first time since her appointment became public Diaz, when asked why she gave up a job in the Administration of Governor Phil Murphy to work in Paterson City Hall, said “here’s home.”
“With Mayor Sayegh Paterson has a better future,” Diaz said. “I am lucky to be a part of this team.”
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