PATERSON, NJ - When Farrah Irving arrives at Paterson City Hall on Monday she’ll be walking into a new job, taking on new responsibilities, and facing new challenges. Despite all that will be new, Irving told TAPinto Paterson, what’s she’s really arriving for is a “homecoming.”
Born and raised in the city, leaving only for a brief time to attend law school in Washington, D.C., after beginning her initial career as a social worker with Project Youth Haven, Irving is set to start in her new role as Corporation Counsel.
With stints in similar roles in both Hillside and Irvington, Iriving says she is prepared for the role that became available with the departure of Khalifah Shabazz, to serve as the City’s top lawyer.
While the local ordinances may be different, Irving offered, insuring that both the Administration and Paterson City Council are operating in accordance with the laws that govern local government is not “foreign” given her previous experience.
Perhaps more important than her work experience and academic learning in meeting her job duties, she suggested, is the value of public service that was instilled in her, as well as her three brothers, early in life by her mother and grandmother.
A Jamaican immigrant with only a limited formal education when she arrived in the US as a teenager, Irving’s grandmother went on to become a teacher. Beyond that, even with no legal background, she soon became the “go to” person for other immigrants from the Caribbean nation who were in need of immigration assistance.
“She had no formal training,” Chris Irving, Farrah’s brother interjected. “As kids we watched these people come through our house,” he added, saying it embedded in them a sense of responsibility to help others.
A public servant in his own right, Chris is a former member of the Paterson Board of Education, a position he served in for nearly 10 years, most of them as the body’s president.
Saying their mother never asked for anything for her assistance, simply performing her work with a “whatever you had to give is what you gave,” approach, Herman Iriving, Chris’ twin brother, said all she wanted to do was “help people achieve their goal of becoming American citizens.”
“Our family was built on public service,” Farrah said reflecting on Saturdays spent delivering food to residents in a senior citizen building. “Service is embedded in us, always give back, don’t forget home, find a way to inspire others,” Herman added as some of the values instilled in them.
And so, after several years of working as a public servant outside of Paterson, Farrah is coming home, prepared to take on an even bigger challenge in her legal career, now for a city she believes is “moving in the right direction.”
“Paterson is revitalizing, it’s changing, growing,” Farrah said characterizing the potential as “amazing,” before adding that she believes her hometown is ready to “reclaim its place as New Jersey’s third largest city.”
Farrah hopes to make an impact beyond helping to administer the law, she said, and wants to be an inspiration to young girls in the city that will see her as someone that grew up like them.
She also wants them to see, she said pivoting to an issue that hadn’t yet come up during the meeting, that “someone can make a mistake, get a reprimand, and still come back and serve.”
As the conversation continued and headed towards a blemish on Farrah’s career that came at the hands of the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2018, Mayor Andre Sayegh, as if on cue, walked in to Mr. G’s making his way to the back corner table, and offering a greeting to the Irving siblings.
The issue, originally reported in a press account by a local news blog following Sayegh’s appointment of Irving, arose in February 2014 when, in helping a pro-bono client, the young attorney signed her client’s name to documents without adding a notation that the client had not personally signed it.
In the finding by the Disciplinary Review Board of State’s top court, reviewed by TAPinto Paterson, Irving was found to have had no other ethical blemish, was a “relatively newly admitted attorney” at the time of the action, knew that the likelihood of success in the case was “questionable” yet proceeded in an effort to help her client, and was “candid and cooperative” with the investigation.”
The final ruling in the action, a reprimand.
Asked directly about the action Sayegh said that while he wasn’t aware of it before his decision to appoint Farrah to the position that is vital in his Administration, the matter doesn’t change the “favorable impression” he has had of his pick since he first met her five years ago through work she was performing on behalf of the city in previous private practice.
“It was a mistake that Farrah owned up to,” Sayegh said. “We move on,” he said, adding that in considering her entire career her “work ethic and professionalism speaks for itself.”
When asked how he hope members of the Paterson City Council, as well as the public, react to to the issue when Farrah goes before the legislative body for a hearing, Sayegh offered a hope that they will remember that “no one is perfect.”
Farrah, he said, “is from Paterson, coming back to serve her city.”
“Let’s give one of our own a chance, there’s no need to be prejudiced against her,” he added. “We should afford Farrah a positive homecoming.”
As for her own reaction to the swirling controversy, a potential harbinger for things to come serving in a city where, an activist city council, intense media scrutiny, and ever watchful public comes with the territory, Farrah offered that she doesn’t get mad, instead, she said, she learns from it and gets better.”
Farrah did learn from the matter, she said, including important lessons in choosing clients, managing work properly, following up, and documenting everything correctly, all tools that will be important in her newest role.
“Paterson has always been home, Paterson reared me,” she said, concluding that there is “something” about the city that draws people back.
“I grew up here, I had to come back home, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
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