Does the Freeholder Board need a clerk?

By Art Gallagher

The Asbury Park Press reported yesterday that the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders balked at appointing Freeholder Director Lillian Burry’s choice to replace Jim Gray as Clerk of the Board.

Gray retired at the end of October.  His salary was $109,748.  Burry wants to replace Gray with James Stuart of Colts Neck, a semi-retired real estate appraiser, who would start the job at $60,000 if appointed.

Stuart served on the Colts Neck Township Committee with Burry. He served the township for nine years through 2008.  He also had a real estate sales license that hung in Burry’s Colts Neck Realty brokerage office.

Freeholder Amy Mallet (D) slammed Burry for political patronage in proposing Stuart.  That is ironic coming from Mallet, whose unsuccessful running mate, Glenn Mason, was appointed the county Emergency Management Coordinator shortly after the Democrats took control of the Freeholder Board in 2009.

Freeholder John Curley (R) raised questions about Burry’s business relationship with Stuart which were echoed by Freeholder John D’Amico (D). Freeholder Rob Clifton (R) told the APP that we would wait and see what happens.

Sources tell MMM that Clifton and D’Amico are expected to join Burry in appointing Stuart at the next Freeholder meeting on November 23 over the bi-partisan objections of Mallet and Curley.

In these times of fiscal austerity, I think it is worth questioning this appointment and all appointments.  Let me emphasis that I am not taking a position, pro or con, on this appointment, at least not yet.  I’m simply raising questions and encouraging others to do the same.

The first question should be “Is the position necessary?”  Even if the position is required by legislation, and I don’t know if the clerk of the board position is required, the question should be asked, at all levels of government.

The Monmouth County website describes the Clerk of the Board function as follows:

The Office of the Clerk of the Board of Chosen Freeholders provides the Board with the necessary information and background material on those matters requiring its attention.

The principal activities of the Clerk of the Board are to keep a book of the minutes and a record of the orders and proceedings of the Board. The Clerk of the Board has custody of the official seal of the County and all records, documents and other official papers relating to the property and business of the County.

The functions performed by the Clerk of the Board include:

  • recording the official minutes of the Board
  • handling Board correspondence
  • preparing meeting agendas
  • processing, filing and advertising ordinances, resolutions and the county budget
  • serving as a liaison between the public and the Board
  • administering and recording oaths of office
  • signing official documents
  • attesting the signatures of officers and officials
  • maintaining a receipt of service of legal documents;
  • acting as custodian for several county departments with regard to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)
  • directing correspondence and inquiries for action to various county departments
  • conducting business with other county departments as directed by the Board

Monmouth County’s Clerk of the Board’s office has a Deputy Clerk and three staffers.  When the new clerk is hired that will be five full time people working to fulfill the prescribed functions.  Record keeping and correspondence is important, but are all of those people necessary?  Would there be a savings by promoting the Deputy Clerk and freezing or reducing the staff?  Would the functions suffer?  Does technology make record keeping and correspondence more efficient?

Another question, and this is not meant to single out Stuart, but to address widespread abuses.  Is Stuart’s appointment a pension pad/grab?  Does he have pension credits from his service on the Colts Neck Township Committee that would count towards years of service should he be appointed to this job. I don’t know in Stuart’s case.  However such pension padding by part time elected officials has been so rampant over the years that the pension system, and abuse thereof, has obviously been a consideration when making such appointments in the past.  It should also be a consideration, on the other side of the equation, going forward.  If two people are equally qualified for a necessary position but one would add substantial pension costs if hired, those costs should be carefully considered in a hiring decision.

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Monmouth County | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

14 Comments on “Does the Freeholder Board need a clerk?”

  1. Chris said at 6:34 pm on November 16th, 2010:

    Can’t the Monmouth County Clerk take care of those duties as well?

  2. MLaffey said at 6:54 pm on November 16th, 2010:

    The Monmouth County Clerk is an independent constitutional officer that could not perform those duties.

    While Art raises some good points (especially the pension issue) the bottom line is someone needs to perform these duties. Whoever does it should be compensated. The question is how much. Apparently Jim is doing it for a much reduced salary compared to the last guy.

    Jim is a very smart guy who I am sure will do a good job with this position. The business relationship with Burry is very minor. Neither made any real money off it.
    So really what difference does it make how she knows the guy. I could make the argument that it is better for a politician to hire someone they have worked with as they then know that persons abilities much better. It is not as if he is a relative. That would be a problem. Mallet’s argument is a non starter for me. the emphasis should be on qualifications and cost.

  3. Rick Ambrosia said at 7:52 pm on November 16th, 2010:

    I know Jim Stuart also, and he would be a fine addition to the county. The problem is that Madame Burry did not put it out so that other people, who may be more qualified, could apply. Same thing happened in CN with Tom Hennessy and his hiring as a full time Recreation Director, without so much as seeing anyone elses resume. He was not qualified for that position and it was just given to him. With a raise. Disgraceful.
    So, now with this one, the least she could have done was give it the impression that she was doing right by the county and see if anyone else was qualified. She didn’t. She thinks she’s above all that and runs the county like she is entitled to anything. She doesn’t have the grasp after all these years that she works for the people. She thinks the people work for her.

  4. Russ said at 12:47 am on November 17th, 2010:

    “the bottom line is someone needs to perform these duties”

    Ok Mike, but why does it have to be someone other than the Freeholders themselves or members of their staff and why does it have to include a staff that equals 5 full-time positions?

    The answer, I would posit, is that it doesn’t need 5 additional people on the payroll to accomplish. This is a perfect opportunity for Republicans on the Board, including those newly elected, to put their foot down and start cutting spending. Admittedly a decrease of $40K is a savings, but a derease of $100K (plus whatever the 4 support staff make) is better.

    Because this is so, as I see it, it makes what might have otherwise been an innocent appointment selection seem that much more inappropriate. Stuart may be a great guy and the relationship between him and Burry completely innocuous, but because the position and its cost doesn’t seem worth it in these times and based on that job description, it is absolutely justified to ask the questions Art and Curley are raising.

    It’s high time Republicans got serious about cutting spending…at every level.

  5. MLaffey said at 2:28 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    I never said the questions where innapropriate. In fact I said they where good questions.

    I did point out that Stuart is doing it for considerably less then the last guy.

    Maybe an existing employee can do it.
    We do not know that. We should find out.
    I was merely suggesting there not be a rush to judgment. I would point out that many Municipal clerks have a deputy and a couple of staff members. Is that needed? maybe not but before deciding as a manager I would want a breakdown of how people in the department are spending their time.
    I am all in favor of cutting government. That being said I realize also that government has to be able to function and I advocate a rational approach to these issues rather then hurling charges around.

  6. Russ said at 3:06 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    Mike, fair enough.

    But give me a break, Government would “function” just fine without a Board of Chosen Freeholders at all. If you’re honestly telling me that we need 5 people to notarize documents and “prepare meeting agendas” and that without them Government wouldn’t be able to function, then you and I are from entirely different planets.

    I’m quite sure that’s not what you meant though.

  7. ask the lawyer.. said at 6:49 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    who said at the last meeting, that statutes mandate that each county”shall” appoint a Clerk of the Board for a 3-yr. term.. end of discussion.. it does not have to be advertised, the Boards all can and do appoint whom they want and feel can do the job.. with the hundreds of resolutions, contracts, OPRA requests, and other permanent records of business that must be kept and maintained, this county’s is a relatively small sized office, to get/keep it all straight.. get over it, the Dems appointed whom they wanted, the R’s can do the same, whether people like it, or not.. there are very few such stautory appointments left, anyway…. it’s the “body politic” and the system,period..

  8. MLaffey said at 10:30 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    I am not suprised having a clerk is mandated by statute.
    I think the real question is how much support staff is required.
    Russ if you really think government would function fine with out a Board of Freeholders then you do not have a clear picture of what they do.
    And before you go there Yes, I think they do some things that neither they or another government entity should be doing but that is a whole different debate.

    If all the Clerks staff does is “notarize documents and “prepare meeting agendas”
    Then yes, 5 is way to many. I would however be suprised if that is the case.

  9. Jim Sage, Marlboro said at 11:00 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    Whoa, just a minute! Lillian Burry “interviewed” several candidates??? Like whom?? Lets have names!

    Why no advertisement for this position?

    It stinks period! Looks like John Curley and Amy Mallet need to scrutinize and put Lillian’s feet to the fire on this one.

  10. In the immortal words of our dear President, said at 11:48 pm on November 17th, 2010:

    “elections have consequences- we won!”.. one more time, slowly,NO advertisement was necessary:it is not a regular civil service position!….as for names, there are drawers full of resumes, in every single government office and every private company office, these days: plenty of folks want/need work and are always applying, as things become available,and every official will tell you they get calls and visits for jobs all the time!… so,one more time, it’s a permitted, STATUTORY position, which must be filled, and you can go ahead and check the history of the county: when the D’s were in charge, they picked a D.. when the R’s were in charge, they picked an R.. get it,yet?..it would likely take a change in the existing laws and/or a referendum, to change the process!

  11. I Hate Flippy said at 11:01 am on November 19th, 2010:

    Hey Sage, nice of you to join us. I figured you’d be too busy with your schedule full of failed Sheriff’s elections, and using grieving families as tools to serve your political aspirations, by making rediculous accusations against people. I hope they sue the balls off of you one day, if they get the chance.

  12. precisely, and said at 3:47 pm on November 22nd, 2010:

    perhaps a better choice of whom to back will get you on a “non-advertised”, “favorites” list for a job, next time!.. funny how evil “the system ” is, when one picks wrong, and how “qualified” the appointees are, for those who win and put in their trusted friends/advisors, isn’t it??

  13. Oh boy!! said at 4:41 pm on November 22nd, 2010:

    Lucas circling around like a vulture and Sage perched atop a tree watching like an eagle, sharpening his talons.

    I see big things happening in the future.

  14. I Hate Flippy said at 11:08 pm on November 23rd, 2010:

    Sage and his pal Brophy can both suck it. The only person murdered was Brophy at the polls.