HILLSIDE, NJ — Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss has been appointed to a supervisory position in the Hillside Public Works Department and Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren has resigned from his position as Hillside’s Urban Enterprize Zone coordinator.
The move is the latest in a series of developments within Hillside and particularly in the DPW, which settled a lawsuit brought by a former director earlier this year and also had Orange’s equipment used in the township.
Warren resigned as Hillside UEZ coordinator of economic development Sept. 5, “on his own volition,” acting Hillside Business Administrator Ray Hamlin told Local Source via email Sept. 7. Hamlin also wished him well.
Messages left for Warren at his office and with the Orange communications department on Sept. 8 were not returned.
Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson, who was was nominated by the Union County Democratic Committee to run for a seat on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, appointed Vauss early September as a supervisor in the DPW, Hamlin said.
“Tony Vauss brings a wealth of knowledge and possesses over 17 years of proven leadership and experience regarding managing effective DPW operations, and he we believe that knowledge and experience will be an asset to the Township of Hillside,” Hamlin said.
Vauss, who formerly worked 17 years as assistant director of neighborhood services before becoming mayor, said he’ll be handling the day-to-day operations of the Hillside public works department.
He said he’s met with the Hillside township attorney to discuss salary for the position, which is 32 hours a week, but said it’s too soon to tell yet.
“I just decided to help,” Vauss said in a phone interview Sept. 12, adding that Garretson asked him to take on the job. “I don’t know how long it’s going be.”
Vauss is not a replacement, Hamlin said, adding that personnel changes were made to “strengthen manpower.”
The addition of Vauss did not need to be approved by the Hillside Township Council, as per the Faulkner Act, the New Jersey law that governs township forms of government.
The township’s business administrator, speaking on behalf of Garretson, declined to comment when asked if the position had been advertised to the public.
“Mayor Garretson has no comment, and since these are personnel matters, the administration only consults the council as per Faulkner on certain positions, and the recent appointment [did] not qualify as such and are within the respective department budgets,” Hamlin said. “All new hires will have an interim period, and will evaluated based on performance after this period has expired.”
Garretson issued the following statement via email regarding the hiring: “Anthony ‘Tony’ Vauss brings a wealth of experience and I am excited he is joining my administration and will do well organizing the Department of Public Works.”
Emails sent on Sept. 8 to Hillside council members seeking comment about Vauss’ new position and Warren’s resignation were not returned.
Hillside Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Salters said Vauss should be given a chance to succeed in his new Hillside DPW job.
“This is Mayor Garretson’s decision solely,” Salters said in a Sept. 7 email. “Does it bother me that Tony Vauss is a mayor in another town? Yes. Is he qualified to be a supervisor in DPW? Yes. Everyone knows we need help and vision in this department. I am hopeful he can make it better. Rather than failing him before he starts because of preconceived notions let’s give him a fair chance to succeed.
“Our DPW needs to be proactive with a daily plan rather than just reactive. If he can improve the operation, he will be welcomed.”
The public works department in Hillside has faced controversy in the past.
A former acting director of the department, Tharien Arnold, filed a lawsuit against the Township that was settled for $60,000 this year. Arnold claimed his salary was lowered from $100,000 annually to $15,000.
Sandra Caceres, the former acting DPW superintendent, resigned in 2016 after she claimed she had been demoted to general supervisor and offered a lower salary.
Council members last year said DPW trucks from Orange — with blue tape covering their logos — were used to hang holiday decorations in Hillside.
The Hillside Township Council was concerned about a lack of a shared services agreement between Orange and Hillside for the work.
Warren, the current Orange mayor who recently resigned from his position in Hillside, also formerly served as acting business administrator in Hillside. He took on the position last year amid an FBI investigation involving possible corruption linked to Orange city officials.
Phone messages sent to Garretson’s office and an email to Hamlin asking who will replace Warren were not immediately returned on Sept. 8.