TOMS RIVER-During his tenure as Mayor, Thomas Kelaher has appointed 44 people to jobs outside of the normal application process, costing the township as much as $5,000,000 annually. Upon taking office in January, Mayor-Elect Maurice “Mo” Hill must decide the fate of those 44 jobs and $5,000,000 in payroll and health benefits.
“There are approximately five-hundred positions within the township. Four hundred and fifty are protected by collective bargain agreements (CBA) as union employees and their salary and raises follow the CBA,” said Township Business Administrator Don Guardian. “Forty-four have no protection and are considered confidential employees. They serve at the will of the mayor.”
Guardian said there are several other appointed jobs that are protected, including the Chief of Police, Court Administrator, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector, Director of Public Works and the Construction Code officer, bringing the total number of appointments to 50, representing 10% of the total public workforce in the township.
Last week, Hill’s campaign transition leader, New Jersey Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin sent out letters to those forty-four unprotected “confidential” employees notifying them that they need to resubmit their resumes and re-apply for their jobs if they wish to continue working under Hill’s regime.
“The forty-four confidential positions were notified that their employment is the mayor’s prerogative and should they want to continue, they need to let the Mayor-Elect know their interest along with a resume and qualifications for the position,” Guardian said.
Traditionally, mayors and other elected officials will hire close ally’s and offer those confidential positions to supporters and friends. The jobs are awarded outside the standard hiring practices of a township through appointments.
“Should the Mayor-Elect choose not to rehire a position, he may choose to interview and hire with the consent of council or eliminate a position or add a position,” Guardian added. “Should he not find a qualified individual the practice is to post in-house first, then post through the state League of Municipalities and interview.”
As for those who will not be reappointed by Hill, they will head to the unemployment line in January as their employment with the township will cease on December 31st.
Neither current Mayor Thomas Kelaher nor Hill responded to our request for comment on this matter.
Councilman Daniel Rodrick said the transition from Kelaher to Hill should be viewed as an opportunity to trim spending in the township.
“I’m pleased that Mayor-Elect Hill and the new council members have decided to review Tom Kelaher’s appointments which are costing taxpayers in excess of $5,000,000 per year,” Councilman Rodrick said. “If we’re going to keep taxes down, we have to take a closer look at these appointments and cut the fat.”