CRANFORD— Last week Police Chief Eric Mason submitted his resignation as interim administrator, effective the end of the year.
The township, according to one governing body member, had no choice but to go back to square one and appoint an administrator search team in order to find a replacement for the position that was vacated Sept. 12, 2011 when former township administrator Marlena Schmid was put on paid administrative leave and eventually let go at the end of last year.
Mason assumed the duel role of police chief and interim administrator right after Tropical Storm Irene devastated the township, leaving more than 1,000 homes flooded and many more uninhabitable.
The township has not been able to move forward with appointing Mason as permanent administrator due to confusion over a new state regulation that could prevent him from pulling his pension if he took the job.
Although the township committee made the decision to bring Mason aboard as administrator in late February, the new regulation, unknown by the township at the time, muddled the situation. Mason, unclear about whether he could collect his pension or not, refused to commit one way or another.
The new regulation required that any public employee intending to collect a pension from the state not take another position in the same municipality for 180 days. Whether the new regulation could be applied in Mason’s case was not clear cut due to timing.
According to township records, it was Feb. 28 when the governing body unanimously approved Mason to take over as administrator immediately following his retirement May 31. This was prior to the regulation going into effect March 9.
According to State Treasury Department spokesperson Bill Quinn the question of whether the regulation applied or not was in a very gray area.
Although questions from the public continued to surface regarding the delay in appointing a permanent administrator, the issue remained unresolved until after the Nov. 6 election when the Democrats gained control of the governing body, leaving just two lone Republicans on the committee.
One governing body member said it was no secret the Republican majority on the committee strongly supported Mason, but the Democrats were on the fence because of the long delay in resolving the issue.
Although Mason and several members of the governing body were contacted about the move made by Mason last week, calls were either not returned or committee members preferred not discussing the matter.