PATERSON, NJ – The city’s urban enterprise zone director has resigned, representing the latest sign of trouble within Paterson community development department.
In a letter that said her resignation took effect on Wednesday, Janet Northrop said Mayor Jeffrey Jones and his administration undermined her authority among her staff, harassed her and discriminated against her because she is not African-American.
For example, Northrop said, she was not invited to attend the Great Falls national park ceremony this autumn, but instead the invitation was extended to one of her underlings whose husband was the former president of Paterson’s NAACP chapter.
“A person does not need to be told in word how the administration views them,’’ Northrop, a city resident, wrote in her resignation letter, “because actions speak louder than words. In all my years of working and living in Paterson, I have never encountered such displays of racism. It is difficult at best to work in such a prejudicial environment. It is apparent that I am standing in the way of a position the administration would prefer to give to someone else.’’
Jones, in an interview two weeks after the letter was submitted on December 1, said he had not read it and was not aware of its contents. “If she made allegation, then you know I’m not going to have a comment on it,’’ Jones said.
Councilman Kenneth Morris, who is chairman of the committee that oversees the urban enterprise zone (UEZ) division, called Northrop’s departure a “tremendous loss” for the city.
“I think she has done an exceptional job,’’ said Morris. “She’s responsible for millions of dollars of successful projects in the city and she was a strong advocate in Trenton for UEZs when there was talk about disbanding the program.’’
“She was a pillar and we’re going to miss her,’’ said Frank Filipelli, a city UEZ commissioner, said of Northrop. “Because of her, Paterson’s UEZ is known down in Trenton as one of the best in the state of New Jersey.’’
Northrop’s departure comes as another mid-level administrator within the community development prevailed in municipal court case involving the department’s director, Lanisha Makle, earlier this money.
Brian Sweeney, the city’s former economic development director, had filed municipal charges accusing Makle of filing a false police report against him back in January after the two of them had an argument at the community development department’s Ellison Street offices. On December 14, Makle admitted in court that she had filed an inaccurate police report against Sweeney.
Sweeney had been demoted after the January incident and was transferred to work out of the mayor’s office. Eventually, Sweeney was moved out of the mayor’s office and continued working on economic development projects through his cell phone, officials said. Sweeney is seeking to be reinstated to his director’s title and pay, said his attorney Adolph Galluccio.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether Paterson will replace Northrop. The state this year overhauled the UEZ program and has stopped providing new funding to the municipal offices. On November 1, the state sent Paterson $6.6 million, representing the last of its UEZ funds. Some of that money will go towards a revolving business loan program that in theory in operation for years. But much of the money will eventually be used on more finite projects.
In her resignation letter, Northrop said the Jones administration allowed subordinates to lash out at her without reprimand. Moreover, Northrop said, she was excluded from division head meetings within the community development department.
“To be demeaned at this juncture is nothing less than embarrassing,’’ she wrote. “There has never been such discord in the UEZ division in all the years that I worked for the City.’’
Other than the national park ceremony invitation, Northrop’s letter does not mention any specific examples of what she considered racial discrimination. In fact, one of her complaints was that she was passed over for the economic development director’s job given to Sweeney when Jones became mayor in 2010. But Sweeney is white, like Northrop is.
Makle did not respond to phone messages seeking her input for this story.