Key Englewood Positions in Flux
By MAYA KREMEN
ENGLEWOOD -- The Police Department is being run by an acting chief. The
city manager is a temp. And the schools superintendent is resigning Jan.
Add that to a Health Department that is operating without a health officer
and you have a city without permanent employees in key leadership positions.
City officials say there are competent people watching over the open jobs.
But in the meantime, there have been ripple effects.
• The interim city manager works part time and says he doesn't have
time to address some systemic issues.
• The Health Department's lack of a qualified health officer lost
the city $9,000 in state grants.
• And although acting Police Chief Arthur O'Keefe has provided "consistent,
strong leadership," Policemen's Benevolent Association President
Fred Pulice added that officers were eager for final word on the chief
Chief David Bowman has been suspended since he was indicted in 2004 on
charges that he falsified documents. Last month, a jury found Bowman not
guilty of all charges, but the city decided to review the case to see
if there was any questionable conduct.
"Most people would like to see a resolution," Pulice said. "I
can't think of anyone who works for an organization who likes to see it
The city's review of Bowman's case could lead to a hearing that would
further delay a resolution to the police chief status. The city will decide
about the hearing by the end of the week, Casey said. O'Keefe receives
a base salary of $147,000.
Even if an interim employee is capable, he might not have as much leeway
to make long-term decisions, said Mitchell C. Sklar, head of the state
Association of Chiefs of Police.
"It's a tough time for a department if an administrative head is
facing uncertainty," he said. "It might be harder to make long-term
City officials say it takes time to find qualified candidates for important
Health Director Nelson Xavier Cruz said it has been difficult to find
a licensed health officer. Council President Charlotte Bennett Schoen
said the city manager job had been offered to qualified candidates who
turned it down.
Interim City Manager Robert Casey has ample experience as a former city
manager of Hackensack , and acting manager of Oakland , Bound Brook and
Plainfield . Since he started in April at a cost of $90 per hour, he has
led Englewood through a revaluation, ongoing police negotiations and budget
But he only works 25 hours a week, and his part-time status doesn't allow
him to do a much-needed review of the city's code enforcement and the
property maintenance code, he said.
"I'm concentrating on big-ticket issues, and that precludes me from
doing other things I should look at," he said.
In addition to his daily duties, Casey was also put in charge of hiring
a new city manager, which adds to his list of things to do. The city suspended
the search when he went on vacation for a month.
Though Casey is a good manager, it isn't ideal for an interim
administrator to make lasting decisions for a city, said Mayor Michael
"The city manager has to make sure that they not only have institutional
knowledge, but they plant seeds to ensure the city's economic vitality,"
he said. "When someone's not vested in a city, their interests are
Hiring a replacement for Superintendent Carol Lisa, whose salary is $187,627,
could take anywhere from a month to more than a year, said school board
President Stephen Brown.
"We'd love to have that by May or June, but if it takes longer than
that it does," Brown said. "My anticipation is that a good thorough
search, which will be national in scope, will take much longer than that."
In the meantime, the board is looking to hire an interim superintendent
by Jan. 1.
At the Board of Health, a health officer is needed to make the department
compliant with state standards.
The health board decided to hire Cruz at a salary of $100,000 earlier
this year, despite the fact that he held no health officer's license.
When an interim arrangement with Elmwood Park fell through, the city was
left without a health officer.
Because they were out of compliance, the state declared them ineligible
for a $9,000 health grant.
Cruz said the costs of not having a health officer were minimal.
"It's a small amount of money, and we're still able to function as
a health department," he said.
But health board member Jerry Chambers said the loss of any money was
"Any amount of money is significant and important in running a health
department," he said. "For him to minimize it is absurd."
Reproduced from The Record
Thursday, December 6, 2007
by Michael J. Wildes, Mayor, City of Englewood
2-10 N. Van Brunt Street
Englewood, NJ 07631
for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes For Mayor, Assemblyman Arnold Brown,
Allison Court, Englewood, NJ 07631