UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County’s political landscape has been altered with the retirement of longtime state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, even if many of the names remaining are familiar.
Former Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan was sworn in Jan. 9 to take over Lesniak’s seat in the 20th Legislative District, which includes Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union.
But Cryan is not leaving law enforcement entirely: he was appointed by newly elected Sheriff Peter Corvelli as the county undersheriff and will be making $140,000, according to public records.
Cryan did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.
The new senator is the sponsor of 14 different bills introduced already, including one that would prevent public and independent universities from increasing undergraduate tuition and fees for nine straight semesters after a student’s initial enrollment.
Spending at several public universities and colleges in New Jersey has been examined in recent years and in 2016 the state comptroller audited Kean University, The College of New Jersey and William Paterson University to examine how and why they increase tuition.
Cryan was an outspoken critic of spending in higher education as a state assemblyman for the 20th District from 2002 to 2014, most notably regarding Kean’s $250,000 conference table. Cryan told Politico in a recent article that his bills do not target Kean.
Now, Union County’s only four-year public university will be getting a new board of trustees member. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari’s chief of staff, Ed Oatman, was nominated to the board by former Gov. Chris Christie in June, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
While Cryan had no senatorial courtesy to approve or block Oatman’s appointment to the board, since he only recently took office, one of his new bills would limit the number of terms the trustees of public universities can serve.
One of Scuatari’s major issues has been the legalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey.
He had introduced a bill in the last legislative session and reintroduced it again this session.
Cryan publicly said at an opioid town hall last month that he was for decriminalization of marijuana, not full legalization.
Oatman replaced former trustee Robert Cockren, whose term expired last June, Kean spokeswoman Margaret McCorry said.
Trustees do not receive compensation for serving on the board. Oatman did not return a message left for him seeking comment at Scutari’s office on Friday, Jan. 12.
Oatman was hired Jan. 2 as a “seasonal assistant for short-term utilization” in the Union County Manager’s Department, according to documents obtained through a public records request.
He makes $25 per hour for up to 25 hours a week in the position, records show.
Current Union County Manager Alfred Faella will be retiring by March 1, according to a press release.
The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders will have to appoint a new county manager, a top executive position which handles the day-to-day operations of government.
Oatman’s expected expiration date for his part-time job under the current county manager is Feb. 28, according to records obtained by LocalSource.