Kean fires England, support staffers

The word came down from Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr., on Tuesday.

Trying to change the look of the GOP Upper House team, the incoming Senate Minority Leader fired Rick England, a political operative who was director of constituent relations, in addition to several members of the minority office's support staff, Republican staff sources say.

While there is speculation that Director of Research John Hutchison is also slated to lose his job, he was absent from work on Tuesday and his status is unknown, according to sources.

Averting a firing, Communications Director Mike Jennings told that he has accepted a communications job with PSE&G.

"I'll be starting the job at the beginning of the new year," said Jennings.

Sources say John Samerjan, executive director of the Senate Republican Minority Office, will be removed under the new regime. On that front, a fight goes on in the caucus between Kean, who favors as Samerjan's replacement attorney James Harkness, and some of the senators-elect, including Kevin O'Toole, who like John Kingston, the Assembly Republican Research Director.

O'Toole has been outspoken in his criticism of the business-as-usual appoach to life in the minority, and resistant to Harkness in part because of what he cites as the professional company he keeps.

"Jim Harkness sits in the Assembly balcony with his client, an anti-death penalty group, meanwhile, the GOP caucus will vote to keep the law intact," O'Toole said on Friday as the Democratic Majority sought to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey over the ultimately unsuccessful entreaties of the minority party.

Sources said Harkness has the edge over O'Toole's preference Kingston, and that he participated, along with Kean and Sen. Joseph Kyrillos in drawing up the designs for Tuesday's firings.

"I have no comment," said Harkness when asked about the status of the executive director's position on Tuesday. "Someone else has that job right now."

Kean and Kyrillos could not be reached for comment.


Kean fires England, support staffers