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 »