SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Village officials announced on Tuesday that they do not intend to reappoint Robin Kline to another term as village vlerk.
Kline’s three-year term ended on Aug. 1, and the township is in the middle of the 60-day period it has to decide whether or not to extend her term. According to state law, if a village clerk is holds the position for five consecutive years, the position becomes tenured, and the clerk “shall not be removed therefrom except for good cause shown after a fair and impartial hearing,” according to NJ Statute 40A:9-134.
A message on the village’s website reads, “The Board has expressed a fundamental opposition to tenure and is exploring its options at this time and intends to address the issue of tenure with the State Legislature. The Board of Trustees and the Village President thank Ms. Kline for her extraordinary service to the Village.”
A second consecutive three-year term would give Kline tenure, which it appears the Board of Trustees have chosen to avoid. Whether the tenure issue could be somehow deferred or evaded is unclear.
Kline was not available for comment.
“I think that the tenure laws in New Jersey are a relic of well intended but poorly written laws that leave too much open to judicial interpretation and need to be reformed,” Village President Alex Torpey said via email. “And this fundamental opposition to making any appointments, regardless of the employee, under such an archaic system of rules is shared by the Board, which has expressed an unwillingness to make any appointments with tenure under the system as it stands, which I agree with.”
Municipalities across the state are placed in a difficult situation when employees are up for tenure. They must sometimes choose whether to lose good employees or allow them to earn tenure, making them difficult and expensive to remove further down the road.
“Hopefully some productive conversations can come of this with legislators and other interest groups to talk about to how to protect government employees from politically motivated removals/appointments (the main reason these rules were created in the first place in the earlier years of a spoils-ridden American government) while providing a system that still encourages job performance and allows for removals with just cause,” Torpey said. "I would like to thank Robin for her exceptional forward thinking and service as Clerk here in South Orange."