Brick Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis has formally vetoed a pair of controversial governmental restructuring ordinances that were passed by the township council last week.
The mayor promised after the Sept. 25 council meeting when the ordinances were approved that he would veto them. Council President John Ducey, one of the ordinances' proponents, said he expects the council will attempt to override the mayoral veto.
The ordinances, passed in a 4-3 vote that was not along party lines, eliminate several positions at town hall and create three new ones. They also eliminate the departments of Recreation as well as Community Development and Land Use. The functions of those departments will be rolled into existing departments.
Ducey has said the restructuring – which would cost Assistant Business Administrator Juan Bellu, Recreation Director Dave Francese and township council secretary Jennifer Hartmann, among others, their jobs – would save taxpayers $418,000 per year.
However Business Administrator Scott Pezarras calculated that, since some of the employees whose jobs will be eliminated could potentially bump back to civil service titles with higher salaries, the move could cost taxpayers about $130,000.
Acropolis also accused council Democrats of creating three new positions so political allies could be given jobs.
The move caused additional controversy because Township Attorney Jean Cipriani said portions of the ordinance may not conform with a state law that sets forth Brick's municipal government structure. Ciprinai also raised concerns that the ordinance's passage could be voided since affected employees were not given legal notice about the fact that their jobs were in jeopardy.
Ducey said Thursday night that, as he has said from the beginning, the ordinances were designed to save taxpayer dollars.
"I'm disappointed that the mayor vetoed an ordinance that was specifically put in place to give the taxpayers some savings," he said. "The mayor himself brags about how many less employees there are now, compared to ten years ago. By consolidating and eliminating those two departments, the taxpayers would save even more money."
But Acropolis, in a statement, decried what he sees as flaws in the plan.
"Everything about these ordinances – their intent, the way they were written, they way they were submitted, the way they were voted in after the attorney urged caution – leaves more questions unanswered then answered and has exposed the township to litigation," Acropolis said. "They are probably the most irresponsible and worst handled pieces of legislation I have seen in my seventeen years as an elected official in Brick Township."
Acropolis submitted a lengthy, legally-required letter to the township clerk Thursday detailing his reasoning behind the veto. The letter included references to what he sees as violations of the state's Open Public Meetings Act with reference to the notification of employees, as well as issues with the ordinances' compliance with the Faulkner Act – the law which sets forth the town's governmental structure.
"It is the intent of the mayor-council plan of government to confer on the council general legislative powers, and such investigative powers as are germane to the exercise of its legislative powers, but to retain for the mayor full control over the municipal administration and over the administration of municipal services," Acropolis wrote in his veto letter, which included several references to various court cases.
For the council to override the mayoral veto, a "super majority" of five votes is necessary.
The original vote in favor of passing the restructuring plan came out 4-3, with council members Joseph Sangiovanni, Domenick Brando and Bob Moore voting against it. One of those three council members would have to change their vote in order for the override to pass.
Ducey said he plans on pushing for an override vote.
"My obligation to the taxpayers of Brick is to save money," he said.