The Toms River Township Council at its last meeting introduced an ordinance creating tenure for the Director of Public Works after five years of service. According to the ordinance, the director shall be appointed by the mayor with the consent of the council. Current Director Lou Amoruso has served in the position for that long, he said at the time. The township attorney said that tenure is required by state law, but that the director could be relieved if determined to be underperforming. The council is scheduled to hear public comment and vote on the ordinance during its Feb. 11 meeting, 6 p.m. at town hall.
Former Mayor Paul Brush submitted this letter to the editor addressing the topic:
To the Editor, Toms River Patch,
The Toms River mayor and council have undertaken the audacious task of giving tenure to the Public Works Director, no matter who he may be. Yes, there is a state statute, unfortunately, that permits it, but does not require it, although when the tenure measure was introduced and they were questioned why they would do something so stupid, they said it was mandated.
Well, truth is, it isn’t mandated – it’s permitted which is a big difference. As a former mayor, I wondered why Mayor Kelaher would ever agree to tenure. It appears he has abdicated all his authority to the town council. When I was elected mayor in 2003, under the new form of government, I asked Professor Ernest Roeck of Rutgers University to hold a town meeting in Town Hall and advise us on the new form of government. It was an exciting time and Professor Roeck was an authority on municipal government. He made it perfectly clear that the mayor is the chief executive officer of the town and council’s role is to enact ordinances and adopt the township’s budget. Well, it’s become clear that in Toms River that the council has been calling the shots.
Why would the mayor give tenure to the Public Works Director if he didn’t have to, unless it’s for political reasons? Just think about the cleanup immediately after Superstorm Sandy. Shouldn’t the mayor be directing the cleanup or should the Public Works director be in charge? Do you know how difficult it is to remove a department head that has tenure? Just ask Gov. Christie who opposes tenure for this very reason.
Tenure for the Public Works Director is bad public policy. In 2003 we changed the form of government and elected a mayor for four years to provide leadership and guidance through normal times. These are not normal times and Mayor Kelaher has turned over the reins of government to the Council and their friends. I urge our residents to come to the town council meeting on Monday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. and tell the mayor and council to table this ordinance – permanently.