Town CFO back at work; power struggle rages on

The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)



HILLSIDE- Township employees will be paid this week. But the power struggle between the council and the mayor, which threatened to freeze the checks, isn’t over.

The checks went out when chief financial officer Janice Saponaro returned to work, two days after being fired by the township council and one day after being reinstated by Mayor Joseph Menza. Menza maintains he is the only one who can hire or fire a CFO. He said the 300-plus employees will be paid as long as Saponaro is acting CFO.

But the council is seeking an injunction to bar the mayor from reappointing Saponaro. The council fired her after she failed a state-required certification examination.

Saponaro returned to work yesterday with a security officer at her side, Third Ward Councilman John Kulish said.

The incident is the latest in a power struggle between the mayor and the council over hiring. The council sued Menza in March when he laid off more than 40 workers without its consent. A judge ruled Menza did not have the right to lay off employees without council approval.

Kulish said the council will also challenge Menza’s relocating the clerk’s office to a basement office, a move the mayor said would “enhance township operations.”

Kulish said the move was to punish the clerk for being named interim CFO.

“It’s not punishment,” Menza said. “If it were punishment, I’d put her out on the front lawn.”



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