Twp. Council pushes through administrator job ad

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By Charles Kim

WEST MILFORD – The Township Council virtually bypassed Mayor Michele Dale Wednesday night, voting 3-2 to immediately place a help wanted advertisement for a new township administrator.

A majority of members quickly moved through a vote to place an ad, going past Dale’s right as mayor to conduct the job search.

The council voted on Dec. 19, 2018 to terminate the services of Township Clerk Antoinette Battaglia as a part time administrator.

Councilman Lou Signorino said at the time that the move needed to be made in order to have a full time person in that position.

Battaglia had filled that dual role along with her clerk duties since 2015 when she was appointed by former Democratic Mayor Bettina Bieri and received a $38,000 stipend for that work.

Bieri, a Democrat, resigned from the post last summer and Republican Michele Dale was elected to fill the last year of her unexpired term in November.

Councilwoman Andie Pegel wrote the advertisement approved by the majority of the body during the 5-hour meeting.

Council members Ada Erik and Marilyn Lichtenberg voted against the move.

Councilwoman Patricia Gerst was absent from the meeting.

While the mayor is supposed to make an appointment for the position with the advice and consent of the council, Dale has held off placing an ad until the council started the process to approve a salary range for the position.

Dale said as much during the meeting Wednesday, noting that it would take some 60 days before the applicant would know what the township was willing to pay.

Shortly before voting on the advertisement, the council voted to move a new salary ordinance with a range of $45,000-$120,000 for the position to the next meeting where it will be introduced.

A public hearing and final adoption would take place about a month later, with the ordinance going into effect 20 days after that.

Pegel, who authored the ad, simply stated “commensurate with experience” in the notice.

Dale said that she would place an ad with the New Jersey League of Municipalities once the council had an idea of what it would pay for the position.

She attempted to start that discussion during a meeting in early January, but the council majority of Council President Peter McGuiness, Sigmnorino, Pegel and Gerst, blocked the discussion until they got more information about what other towns were paying.

Pegel produced information to that effect Wednesday night that she said she got from the League of Municipalities office in Trenton.

That showed the average cost of around $120,000 per year for Passaic County.

Both Pegel and Signorino said they wanted to move the process forward now and would collaborate with Dale on finding a new administrator.

Members of the public speaking during the meeting expressed concern about the move to fire Battaglia, calling the council members that voted for the move “unprofessional.”

Dale, who said the move “blindsided” her when she officially took office Thanksgiving week, said that Battaglia’s dual role saved the community around $104,000 per year.

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