PLAINFIELD, NJ - On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to change Plainfield’s special charter, and by evening an agenda for Monday’s City Council meeting included a 123-page ordinance establishing seven departments under the leadership of a “business administrator.”
The city currently has three departments with multiple divisions, and department heads report to a city administrator.
Remarking on Gov. Murphy’s signing, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said Friday, “It’s a great day for the City of Plainfield.”
But members of a Charter Study Commission who spent months interviewing past officials before publishing recommendations in December 2013 expressed outrage last month over changes made by legislators without their review or approval. The addition of “confidential aides” for as many as eight department heads sparked a campaign to ask Murphy to veto the legislation.
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Because the city's 1968 special charter was enacted by state legislation, it could only be modified the same way.
The proposed ordinance, MC 2018-22, calls for seven department directors, and each one may appoint an “administrative assistant” with approval of the business administrator.
Here are the proposed departments:
Sec. 2:5-5. Department heads; powers and duties. (a) There are hereby created the offices of Directors of the Departments of Communications and Technology, Finance, Health and Social Services, Public Works, Economic Development, Fire, and Public Affairs and Safety (Police). (b) Subject to the direction and supervision of the Business Administrator, each department director shall: (1) Administer his/her department in accordance with the Charter and this Chapter; (2) Organize the work of the department, and allocate and assign personnel and functions within the department; and, (3) Supervise and direct the programs and activities of his/her department.
Each department is described in detail, with some quirky bits. For example, under the "Director of Fire," there is a division headed by a Fire Chief, even though Mapp said in July he wished to abolish that title.
The lengthy ordinance includes a salary range of $115,000 to $175,000 for the business administrator and from $115,000 to $160,000 for each department director. No salary range is indicated for the title of administrative assistant. One of the commission members’ concerns was that the altered legislation would add costs to city government and open a door to patronage.
The charter is only a brief document, while the Municipal Code filled two hefty binders before being published online. The proposed ordinance includes several fee schedules and other fine print that is not in the charter.
Monday’s City Council meeting (Aug. 13) is a combined agenda-fixing session and regular meeting. It starts at 7 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. The ordinance will have to pass on two readings and will take effect 20 days later.