HILLSIDE, NJ — He’s back.
Dwayne Warren, former Hillside business administrator who was hired by Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson and voted out in October after 90 days by the Hillside Town Council, is back — and he’s got a brand new title.
Warren, who was hired back in August as Hillside’s sixth B.A., was voted out of his position on Nov. 1, but was back on the books just weeks later, this time being named by Garretson as Hillside’s new Urban Economic Zone economic coordinator.
Warren, who is currently the mayor of Orange, as well as a municipal prosecutor in Plainfield, will now earn an annual salary of $35,000. As the former business administrator, Warren earned a salary of $70,000.
The council seemed surprised by the appointment at their Nov. 21 meeting, and several council members questioned the hiring procedures — or lack thereof — of Garretson. According to several council members, Garretson has hired people into positions without going through the proper protocol required by the Civil Service Commission, which includes a public posting of positions, as well as background checks.
While the council had the authority to remove Warren as the B.A., they do not have the authority to remove him in his new position as UEZ coordinator. According to Hillside’s Faulkner Act form of government, the mayor can appoint any subordinate without the consent of the council. Had she named Warren as a department head, the council would indeed have had the authority to remove him in that capacity after 90 days.
Hillside Council President Donald DeAugustine said at the meeting that while he does not dispute Garretson’s authority in the hiring of Warren as UEZ coordinator, he does question the process with which Warren was hired. “We don’t dispute that,” DeAugustine said of Garretson’s authority. “But the administration has not complied with the process.”
Hillside Councilwoman Diane Murray-Clements pointed out at the meeting that someone was allegedly hired for the UEZ position in September, alluding to the fact that Garretson had removed the former UEZ coordinator to make room for Warren. “The other person in that position lost his job two weeks before Warren was appointed so he could have his job,” said Murray-Clements. “That’s a problem. Three meetings ago we were told that someone else was in that position. So the other person was eliminated out of that position, but the former B.A. is now in that position. Interesting.”
But Garretson told LocalSource in an email that Warren’s new position is not a civil service position. The mayor said that being a civil-service town does not mean every position is advertised. “Your query is unwittingly facilitating their political posturing,” Garretson said.
Garretson also said that improper hiring practices have occurred in the hiring of both the clerk and the assistant clerk, that promotions were not done properly and that the positions in the clerk’s office were not advertised, yet these positions are civil service positions and would fall under the CSC required procedure.
Warren did not respond to LocalSource’s request for comment.
Hillside Councilman Gerald Freedman asked Hillside Chief Financial Officer Faheem Ra’Oof how much money was left in the account that had been set up to pay Warren’s salary when he was the township’s business administrator, and according to Ra’Oof, there is about $12,000 left in the account.
DeAugustine made no secret about his feelings regarding the appointment, as well as the hiring practices of Garretson in general, and voiced these concerns to the CFO. “Are you comfortable with the way things are going?” DeAugustine asked Ra’Oof. “I mean, it’s your name on those checks. These things are happening. Are you being consulted as to whether these things are right, wrong, legal, illegal? It just seems like this is the kind of stuff when you watch the news around the country and other cities in troubled situations. There are people bouncing from position to position; that’s my concern — that we’re going to put Hillside in a position that we’re going to have to defend ourselves, spend more money and paperwork because of civil service.”
The CFO responded that he did not represent the civil service or the legality of the situation.
Murray-Clements took issue with the fact that the job was not posted according to civil service protocol, and questioned Warren’s qualifications for the position. “So the B.A. was moved from the business administrative position, unapproved by the council, and the mayor puts the former B.A. into a new position at $35,000 a year,” said Murray-Clements. “So the person couldn’t fulfill the job as B.A., but they can fulfill this position at a lower salary.”
According to Murray-Clements, the council had made it clear to the mayor previously that jobs needed to be posted before being filled, and that background checks needed to be conducted. “How is it that all of these processes are eliminated or never happen?” asked Murray-Clements at the meeting. “So we never have job postings, but there are people in jobs. We don’t know about background checks but people are in jobs, and we constantly have residents that come on and ask us if we are hiring. And there are several residents that live right here on Hillside Avenue that have filled out job applications and have been told there are no job hirings but there are certain people that keep getting these jobs. How does that happen? They bypass all of the criteria of how it’s supposed to be put into place.”
Murray-Clements pointed out that there was no point in being a “civil service town” if protocol is ignored. “That’s why we’re a civil service town — to protect people so they can get hired,” Murray-Clements said. “As a council, what can we do? What can we do to eliminate the erroneous actions of certain people in the administration who give people jobs who may or may not have earned it or deserved it or may not be qualified for it? What can we do as a council, because residents are coming to us and asking what’s going on when services are not being taken care of but people are being hired.”
Murray-Clements asked Ra’Oof how he was protecting himself as CFO as hirees come through the township without going through proper civil service hiring procedures. Ra’Oof responded that he protected himself by ensuring that the mayor had approved the appointment and that there was a budget in place for any new hire.
Freedman told LocalSource in a phone call that he was bewildered by the situation. “I am super-impressed at her stupidity,” said Freedman. “She exceeds all of my expectations of letting the town down. Why would you do that when you know the sentiment of the town, and why would Dwayne want to be here when he knows no one wants him here? I’m bewildered by it.”
According to Freedman, the UEZ position has been dead for a long time, and he now questions why the position is being resurrected. “A long time ago a UEZ director’s position was created,” said Freedman. “Now they created a Mickey-Mouse title of UEZ coordinator and director of Economic Development. Really there’s no need for the position.”
Freedman said the council was taken by surprise with Warren’s appointment. “We were blindsided,” he said. “We didn’t know about it, She never announced it, and it was never advertised. We were all bewildered by it. I don’t know if we can quash it — it’s a quasi-area.”
Anthony Salters, Chairman of the Hillside Democratic Party, said that he hopes the new appointment will work out. “Mr. Warren will be judged on merit,” Salters told LocalSource in an email. “I don’t want to prejudge him. We need him to be successful for Hillside. Looking forward to hearing his vision and anxious for positive results.”
DeAugustine suggested that an investigation into the hiring practices of the administration might be needed. “It looks like we’re going down the path of an investigation into the hiring practices of this administration,” said DeAugustine at the meeting. “We sit up here and we do not know what’s going on.”
Freedman said that he wonders what Garretson will do next if Warren has to leave his brand-new position. “I’m afraid to get rid of him as the UEZ guy,” said Freedman. “She’ll appoint him as police chief,” he said, referring to Garretson.
“I’m tired of trying to figure her out. I’m just looking at my calendar and counting down the months. I took psychology but I’ve never been prepared to deal with half the stuff she pulls. We’re pretty livid about it.”