Mayor says councilman should step down, return salary due to absenteeism

ROSELLE, NJ — Mayor Jamel Holley is demanding that a councilman who continually failed to attend meetings resign and reimburse taxpayers for collecting a salary without showing up for work.

Holley said for the three years since 5th Ward Councilman Roy Locke was elected “he has displayed one of the worst records in history.”

“We are entrusted to run the government by and for the hard working men and women of Roselle and the fact that Councilman Locke cannot be bothered to do his job is a disgrace to the office,” said the mayor.
Locke, Holley explained, whose three-year term is up at the end of the year, failed to not only attend council meetings, but also meetings chaired by him.

According to information obtained by LocalSource, Locke missed 40 percent of council meetings in 2014, but still received the full $15,000 salary council members earn for serving as an elected official in Roselle.

Holley is demanding Locke return 40 percent of the $15,000 he received in 2014, but pointed out that in addition to the compensation the councilman received, the borough also handed over to him a $5,000 waiver for not taking advantage of borough health insurance coverage.

“Like most people, if I don’t show up for work then I do not get paid,” the mayor said, adding “then why should Councilman Locke be paid if he doesn’t show up?”

Holley said if Locke cannot do the job he was elected to do “then its time for him to go.”

Locke’s lack of attendance at council meetings and other obligations assigned to him forced Council President Kim Shaw to strip him of his committee chairmanship and also remove him from several of the committees he sits on. Council members, in addition to attending public council meetings, also are appointed as a liaison to certain departments each year at the annual reorganization meeting. This year Locke was assigned to oversee the public safety and recreation departments, but according to Holley he has not fulfilled that obligation either.

Holley said in a telephone interview Tuesday the council will be meeting to discuss the matter this week, but was unsure of what the outcome would be regarding the situation with Locke.

“We all have work commitments and personal obligations to honor, but we were elected by the residents of Roselle to do a job and we show up to do it,” said the mayor.

Locke responded to Holley’s demand by sending a letter to constituents explaining he is committed to serving the 5th Ward despite pressing work and family obligations that unfortunately resulted in his missing meetings. The councilman, though, objected to the manner in which Holley handled these absences, noting that things should have been handled privately.

Sources close to Locke said the councilman is planning on meeting with Holley and the governing body to try and work out the problem, but was unsure at this point if that would solve things.

In his letter to constituents, Locke pointed out several examples of what he has been doing as 5th Ward councilman, noting he has met with the owner of a Raritan Road shopping center regarding reducing vacancies. He also said he has been working to connect residents with job opportunities, internships and grants.

Although the council has no policy on the books regarding council member absenteeism, Shaw said she has asked borough council members to review the current bylaws.

The council president has suggested to the governing body that an amendment should be made to the bylaws to include an attendance policy requiring council members to pay back portions of their salary if they miss meetings or fail to honor their obligations as an elected official.

“We are elected by the residents of Roselle to show up, lead and operate a responsible local government,” said Shaw, adding “it is unacceptable for Councilman Locke to continually forgo his elected duties and action needs to be taken.”
Locke has been a resident of Roselle since 2002 when he relocated from Brooklyn, New York.

A lawyer, the 5th Ward councilman opened a private law practice in New York City in 2009. It is unknown if he changed positions since then, but sources said the councilman is working in mergers and acquisitions and his schedule is more demanding and erratic.
Sources also said Locke wants to work things out so he can better balance his demanding work obligations that result in missing meetings and plans to serve the residents of his ward until the end of his term.