RAHWAY — Following a mayoral career steeped in controversy, Democrat Mayor Rick Proctor turned in his resignation Tuesday.
The retired Rahway health officer, former freeholder and municipal Democratic chairman was elected in November 2010 to serve a four-year term. On Tuesday afternoon, he handed in his single-sentence resignation letter with no explanation for leaving. There are more than 16 months remaining in his term of office.
The letter, which by law must be filed with Rahway’s municipal clerk Jeffrey Jotz, merely said “Please be advised that effective 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, I am resigning my position as mayor of the City of Rahway.” Proctor closed the resignation letter with “best regards.”
The state actually has municipal secession laws in place in case a situation like this arises. According to Jotz, the Rahway Democratic Committee, comprised of 48 committee people from 24 city districts, has 15 days to meet and select three names to fill the mayor’s vacant seat. From that point the city council has 30 days to select one of the three people as acting mayor.
However, because the resignation took place after Sept. 1, the person selected by city council can remain in the position until Dec. 31, 2014, the date Proctor’s term is up. According to one Democratic insider, it is likely City Council President Sam Steinman will be appointed for the mayoral spot. Steinman actually called for Proctor’s resignation in September 2011, saying “At this point in my mind, I have no confidence in his ability to lead the city.”
Since 2011 Proctor has been on the outs with the local and county Democrats for multiple reasons, including attempting to hire his wife for the position of city director of health, which he vacated in order to run for the mayor’s seat. His relationship with former city administrator Peter Pelissier, though, was adversarial from the start.
In August 2011, after Proctor asked the city council to hire a full-time executive secretary and a part-time chief of staff for his office, a total salary of close to $100,000 annually, Pelissier voiced his concerns openly. He told the governing body he was not in favor of the move because it would be a burden on taxpayers and the positions were not necessary. In September of that same year ethics violation charges were filed against Proctor with the state local finance board and attorney general’s office after he attempted to pressure certain municipal officials into hiring his wife for the six-figure health officer position. Proctor’s wife, however, withdrew her name from consideration and another candidate was hired for the position.
In 2012 this same board found the mayor violated ethic rules and “had direct or indirect” personal or financial involvement in the selection process of a city health officer while his wife was a candidate, which was a violation of a state statute. The local finance board also found Proctor used or attempted to use his official position as mayor to interfere with Pelissier’s role as “appointing authority” for the position. Then in November the council abruptly slashed the mayor’s salary from $66,000 to $20,808. Although Proctor said at the time the move was politically motivated, Steinman said it was intended to balance the mayor’s salary with the salaries of other mayors.
Then in March of this year, the embattled mayor was fined $750 after being found guilty in municipal court of soliciting a donation for money to pay off an earlier fine imposed for campaign finance reporting violations. During the trial it was revealed that Proctor solicited the donation from Birdsall Engineering Group, which came under indictment recently for pay to play violations.