The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Respect and Ethical Behavior: Character Counts

Being affirmed as a member of the Plainfield City Council, 1/3/10
 "I have a huge and savage conscience that won't let me get away with things."      --Octavia E. Butler
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought." 
Once again, the behavior of the mayor and one of the councilors has made the news. It is difficult for the city council to effectively function when the public has to endure this willfully disrespectful conduct. Councilman Reid has, on more than one occasion (as we all witnessed the other night) told other councilors to "shut up," and has attempted to filibuster and talk over other councilors--this rudeness, unfortunately, is not new.
"To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears."
As I pointed out to Dr. Yood during the public comment, the city council has rules of conduct. Mr. Reid, apparently, feels that he can violate those rules whenever he wants to--this is disrespectful to the rest of the council, who all (even when we disagree) at least have the courtesy of waiting our turn to speak. Councilor McWilliams had to endure similar outbursts during her tenure as council president. 
"To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool." 
Similarly, the mayor audibly called Councilman Storch a "jerk" twice. I heard it, and the administration representatives sitting on either side of her heard it as well--I could see the shock in the eyes of one of them, and the discomfort of both at what the mayor said. The individuals sitting in the first couple of rows heard her outburst as well. All appeared shocked. This is shameful, despicable behavior that I have had to put up with for months--the mayor speaking in a "stage whisper"--muttering all kinds of insults and inanities--which came to a head last month while I was reading out the resolutions to the public. That the mayor, who purports to hold a degree in "Political Science/Criminal Justice" from Seton Hall University, decided to call my patriotism into question, as well as her publicly ridiculing my private Christian beliefs (causing me to receive hate mail and other, frankly scary, communications from lunatics all across the country), demonstrates a willful disregard and ignorance for my constitutional rights as an American. 
"To be led by the thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen." 
Some blog comments took me to task for asking for a point of order to stop the mayor's interference--as if I were equally responsible for her inability to be respectful of the business of the people. For anyone to blame or chide me (or Councilman Storch) for what the mayor does, as if we initiated it, shows clearly that they agree that her immature, childish, and offensive acts are part and parcel of how she has "governed" this city. Her mismanagement has led to the exodus of numerous talented individuals, and the lawsuit she filed against the city council last month suggests continuing contempt for the city.  She seems to forget the the meeting is a council meeting--I think she should sit with her cabinet members in the front row, rather than sitting near the council whom she disrespects so much.
"To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to."
The mayor is not the only one who has shown contempt for the residents of Plainfield, however. At that same Monday business meeting, Mr. Malcolm Dunn, one of the PMUA commissioners appointed by the mayor, stood and defended his actions in circumventing the arbitration process that the two former directors were in the midst of, and (with his cohort, Mr. Cecil Sanders) making a private deal. This unethical behavior galls people of conscience, and I think that Dunn and Sanders should resign and should pay the city back some of the $4,500 annual stipend they are supposed to receive. In addition, it is my understanding that they do not receive benefits for themselves or their families--let us hope that this policy is being adhered to. Frankly, I think that all the PMUA commissioners should reject the benefits the ratepayers have been giving them all these years. That is one way they can show solidarity with the "family" Mr. Dunn so cynically (in my opinion) spoke of. His words all rang hollow--the "family" is suffering because he and Mr. Sanders went around a legal process to award his two prized "family"members over $1million--unbelievable. 
"To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."
The hardworking office staff and frontline workers should direct their concerns over their employment status at those who have put the authority in jeopardy--namely, the commissioners who voted for the lucrative contracts for the executives who recently resigned and decided that a $1 million plus golden parachute for these two was in order--ratepayers and PMUA workers be damned. I would like to hear from all the commissioners on this and all of the other PMUA-related problems, but I don't expect to. Their continued silence, absence, obfuscation, and evasion tells me everything I need to know. The council will go forward with the study (comprised of legal, engineering, and accounting entities) which, according to the Finance Board (a state agency) MUST be done before further steps are taken.
With hope for a better Plainfield...
All best,
Quotes in red are from The Parable of the Talents, Octavia E. Butler


  1. Wow sorry to here you have been receiving hate mail.


  2. Rebecca, I believe that I intended my remarks to be directed at Councilors Reid and Rivers who feel not bound by any rules of order. They also included all those not on the Governing Body who have no official voice in the deliberations (the Mayor) whose presence is by invitation and should not be permitted rights not allocated to the general public.
    Council President Mapp has used a great deal of restraint in not using all options open to him ib controlling the meetings. Unfortunately political considerations prevail.

  3. Tom, I didn't post your comment because of the use of the word "steal" which, although certainly the sentiment shared by many on this issue, nonetheless might constitute libel for you. I am as disgusted as you are by the recent turn of events, and I have to echo what Councilman Storch said the other night--the worst enemy of the PMUA workers seems to be the commissioners.

    1. Rebecca,
      Thank you for your discretion with my response. You and Councilman Storch are right that the Commissioners are the worst enemy of the PMUA workers, perhaps more they or you and Mr. Storch even realize.

      Below is section taken from the February 9, 2012 PMUA Board of Commissioners Committee Meeting Minutes concerning how to come up with the $182,000 per year to pay Mr. Watson and Mr. Ervin's settlement. As you will read, the Commissioners are seriously considering furloughing the current PMUA employees to raise the money to pay Mr. Watson and Mr. Ervin. I think it speaks for itself about who the Commissioners’ friends are and it certainly seems to be Mr. Watson and Mr. Ervin at the PMUA employees’ expense. Tom

      ‘Several scenarios on how to pay for the former executive’s settlement of $182,000 per year. In the meantime, Alt. Commissioner Sanders is in favor of delaying the hiring of a Deputy Director and that Director Young can continue to perform two jobs. Commissioner Brown is in favor of the furlough of two days or so by current employees of the Authority and Commissioner Brokaw agreed and offering furloughs in conjunction with holidays could be more attractive. Commissioner Mitchell indicated that the last time there were furloughs, the former administration hired even more people after the furloughs were over with and defeating the purpose. We must keep those savings this time. Director Young expressed that if he continues to work two positions, the company will save an additional $72,000. Commissioner Dunn expressed the desire to pay the former executives their first installment regardless by this coming Tuesday. We can hire them as consultants if needed. Commissioner Brokaw wants the issue done with right now as well, however Eric Watson and David Ervin should not come back as vendors or anything else for that matter. It would not be good for the Authority, public or the employees and we need to discuss in executive session. Commissioner Dunn and Sanders expressed that we need to find the money from somewhere. ‘

  4. Why isn't the mayor sitting in the audience with the rest of the people? Is there some rule that says she must have a special location for city council meeting? I thought this is the council's meeting - not the mayor's.

  5. Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone.

  6. To 7:12 am,

    Regarding where the mayor sits in the business meetings at the courthouse: there is no "law" that says there should be a special table for the administration. You are right--it is a council meeting, and during the meetings the courthouse is the council chambers. There is no reason that the administration, including the mayor, shouldn't sit behind the bar and wait to be called up to answer questions. For some reason, this mayor seems to think that she is an equal participant in the council's business. The council may configure the spatial arrangements in any way it wants--the administration has no say in it. Indeed, I know that there are council/administration arrangements just as you devise. Perhaps if the mayor were to sit behind the bar without a microphone would stop her shameful and disrespectful utterances while the city council conducts its business. Another way to perhaps stop her ridiculous interruptions would be for someone to train a camera on the mayor--if she knows that her face and actions were being videotaped, perhaps she would show a sense of decorum. The final way would be to just ask the mayor to stop being disrespectful...well, you saw what happened when I called for a point of order regarding that.


  7. Rebecca, this seating arrangement has been in place for many years, probably before you came to Plainfield. Ask any old-time observer.