The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Weekly Clarification: Acting Cabinet Appointments and Commission Appointments

Based on the commentary I receive on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis, as well as questions from my constituents on issues facing the city, I think that I should occasionally post some clarifications on what occurs at our meetings.

Acting Appointments: I was the councilor who asked for the ordinance change to allow for an additional three months to be added to acting appointments--with city council approval. Some residents may remember that, under the Mayor Al McWilliams administration, the three-month legislative change was put into effect. Although I was not on the governing body (I have only been here a bit over six months), I thought it was a bad idea then. 

The intention is certainly not to prolong the process of finding permanent cabinet members, but as I have been sitting on the council, watching the "musical chairs" of acting appointments being made, hearing from frustrated constituents (and sharing their frustrations) about why the administration cannot seem to get its act together, I felt that we needed to allow the administration to have a bit more time to find prospective candidates. The caveat, though, is that the council will have the power to approve a three-month extension, if necessary. 

Last night, we heard that the administration has been working hard to find candidates to bring to the council for advice and consent. I am hopeful that suitable, competent, and professional individuals will be interviewed and brought to the governing body. In the meantime, I was alarmed at a comment made by a fellow councilor urging the mayor to find permanent cabinet members, because acting appointees only give "...50-80%" of their energies to their temporary jobs--I can't imagine that would be the case here.

Commissions: Thus far, I have received information on the status of two of our commissions from the City Clerk (I will comment on the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs (PACHA) in a future post). I am also asking the City Clerk to provide me with the current status of the Youth Commission, which was founded in 2006, as well as its members and minutes of its meetings since then.  Last night, young Isaac Wilkins came before the council to express his thoughts and concerns about the youth in our city--I think that he would be a good candidate for the Youth Commission--I will talk to him about it.

As of August 2010, the Human Relations Commission, which is supposed to have nine members, only had six total appointments--two have since expired. The current make up consists of the following: Joan E. Hervey--term expires 1-1-13; Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund--term expires 1-1-13; Oliver C. Hubbard, Jr.--term expires 1-1-13; and Eloise Griffith--term expires 1-1-14. The city council gave advice and consent to new commissioner Eric Graham last night. That means that there are five more appointments to be made. I am hopeful that a full complement will be forthcoming and that this commission will do the work set forth by the enabling ordinance--the municipal code section is below--especially with respect to the recent racist, homophobic, sexist rant (known as the "Scarlet Letter") that was put distributed in city hall mailboxes and which is still being investigated by the city. 

I am still awaiting the meeting minutes of the commission for the past several years so that I can see what sort of work they have been doing. I will follow up.

All best,



    (a)     There shall be established a Human Relations Commission, which shall consist of nine (9) citizens of the City appointed by the Mayor, with the advice and consent of the Council, for a term of three (3) years each, except that of those first appointed, three (3) shall be appointed for a term of one (1) year, three (3) for two (2) years, and three (3) for three (3) years.
    (b)     The Human Relations Commission shall:
        (1)     Advise and consult with the Council, Mayor, City Administrator, Deputy Administrator, and Department Directors concerning proposed and existing municipal ordinances or resolutions, administrative directives and departmental or divisional policies and when requested by appointing authority render advice as to the appointments to Boards, Commissions and public bodies and for appointments of administrative employees;
        (2)     Exercise such powers as are allocated to a Human Relations Commission under N.J.S.A. 10:5-10, and in such capacity shall attempt to foster through community effort or otherwise, good will, cooperation and conciliation among the groups and elements of the inhabitants of the City as well as to make recommendations to the Council for the development of policies and procedures in general and for programs of formal and informal education that will aid in eliminating all types of discrimination based upon race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status or sex; and,
        (3) When requested by the Mayor, City Administrator, or Deputy Administrator, may hear and render advisory opinions on any complaint brought before the Office of Information and Complaints and may request of the Mayor, City Administrator or Deputy City Administrator permission to review any such complaint.16.1
(R.O. 1957, 2:21-1 through 4, as amended Oct. 5, 1970 and A.C. 1969, 3.5)

16.1Cross reference: As to the Office of Information and Complaints, see Sections 2:5-4 to 2:5-8 of this Code.

    (a)     The Human Relations Commission shall organize annually, and elect a chairman and vice-chairman, who shall each serve for a period of one (1) year and until their successors shall be elected and qualify.
   (b)     In the absence of the chairman, the vice-chairman shall preside. The Human Relations Commission shall, with the approval of the Mayor, adopt by-laws governing the conduct of its affairs, and shall render an annual report to the Council, the Mayor, City Administrator, Deputy Administrator, and Department Directors.
    (c)     The Human Relations Commission shall, for budgetary purposes, be assigned within the office of Information and Complaints.
    (d)     The Human Relations Commission shall meet regularly, and no less than ten (10) times per year.
(R.O. 1957, 2:21 -1 through 4, as amended Oct. 5, 1970 and A.C. 1969, 3.5)


  1. Thank you for your attention to these boards and commissions. Plaintalker has advocated proper appointments to these entities as well as more light on what they actually do and accomplish. Fragmented boards and those that operate without regard to the Open Public Meetings Act should not be funded. Please keep up your scrutiny of these entities to make sure they function well.

  2. Councilwomen Williams how can you give advice and consent on Mr. Eric Graham. Do you know he only moved to Plainfield in December of 2010. He have not been a resident of Plainfield for a year. We have residents that would love to serve on commissions that have resided in Plainfield for way over 1Year. You have residents that have been here for decades. Wow i guess the council will never do their homework same ole same ole.

  3. Hi, Anonymous at 8:08 am,

    I have no idea about the accuracy of your anonymous statement regarding Mr. Graham's residency. I am not aware of a residency ordinance for HRC appointments. It's not a matter of the council doing any "homework" to find out about Mr. Graham's residency status for the HRC--indeed, if you actually read the ordinance (Sec. 3:13-1 (a)), it simply says commissioners must be "citizens of the City." As I mentioned quite clearly in my post, there are still FOUR additional vacancies on the HRC. I would suggest that you and those residents who have an interest contact Municipal Clerk Jalloh so that you can apply. The mayor makes the appointments, so I expect that you will be putting forward your name and the names of others. You are free to contact me at the number on the left if you would like me to write a letter of support for your appointment. We need interested and involved residents to make this commission function effectively.
    Regarding your comment "same ole same ole"--again, I have no idea to what you are referring.

    All best,


  4. Addendum:

    To all those interested in serving on a board or commission, please forward your letter of interest to the mayor's office and to the city clerk and "cc" me or the other councilors (McWilliams, Mapp, Reid, Rivers, Greaves, Storch) if you would like. If I receive a copy of your letter, that is the only way that I can follow up on appointments--otherwise, I will not know whether you have been fairly considered, at least. Active participation in our city's affairs is what is needed for us to move forward.

  5. To 9:18am - it is the mayor who makes the appointments. I would suggest you ask her the question. You are correct that many people in Plainfield would like to be on boards and commissions, but the mayor for some reason doesn't appoint people. More disturbing, because the mayor seems to want only people who she knows and trusts around her (isn't that called something?), people have stopped applying. That is the real question. Why have people in Plainfield given up?