The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
BYLINE: Barbara Rybolt, Independent Press
Just as he had done for five years, Ray Codey attended the council meeting expecting the usual matters of local government to come before the borough’s leaders.
What Codey, the borough administrator, was not expecting Monday night was to join the ranks of the unemployed, according to those who know him.
“He was blindsided,” said former Councilman Sam Cerciello.
The move has divided residents between those who feel it was a prudent cost-cutting measure and those who see it as little more than petty party politics.
Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto made a motion to dismiss Codey, a cousin of state Sen. Richard Codey’s (D-Essex), citing the need to cut costs. The motion passed on a 4-2 vote. Although Codey’s firing will save money, Mayor Bob Conley said there is more at stake than dollars.
“This was not strictly budget-based,” he said.
Cerciello says politics ruled the day.
“We all know Ray is a Democrat,” he said. “Ray was appointed when the Democrats had the power.”
Now the Republicans are in charge.
The removal came after Conley, a Democrat, objected to putting Codey’s employment up to a vote. He was supported by Councilwoman Carmela Vitale, also a Democrat, and Councilman Vincent Esposito, a Republican, but that wasn’t enough to stop the resolution from passing by a two-thirds majority — the mayor only votes in the case of a tie.
Conley tried to reappoint Codey, but his motion failed. The council then appointed assistant administrator Jim Burnet to the post, again by a 4-2 vote.
Borough officials sent out e-mails, passed on to the Independent Press, to dispel any notion that their move had a motive beyond saving taxpayers money.
“During these challenging economic times, the borough council has worked on a budget that would reduce spending and increase revenue in order to keep the municipal tax increase to a minimum (2%),” the e-mail read. “To accomplish this, at the Feb. 27 meeting we have made the tough but necessary decision to eliminate a redundancy and consolidate the Administrator and Assistant Administrator positions. This will save $100,000 over the balance of 2012, and $200,000 annually going forward.”
Codey, who was given 90 days notice, was unavailable for comment.
The firing came two months after Gov. Chris Christie, who was embroiled in a dispute with Richard Codey over nominations, replaced the senator’s cousin, Christopher Hartwyck, as deputy counsel at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Richard Codey said he doesn’t think the governor was involved.
“It was political,” the senator said. “And, unfortunately, the citizens who absolutely loved him are the ones who are going to suffer. But do I think for a second that Mr. Christie was involved? No.”
Star-Ledger staff writers Matt Friedman and Dan Goldberg contributed to this report.
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