State takes hiring authority away from Trenton mayor

It seems the state has had enough of the troubles that have beset Trenton Mayor Tony Mack since his inauguration and has stepped in to take control of large swatches of city government.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the state division of Local Government Services, the state will now control nearly all hiring within the city, including filling six open positions in Mack’s cabinet.

Mack also has lost the authority to fire cabinet members without first checking with the state and can no longer pay overtime, grant raises and promotions or assign employees in an “acting” capacity.

The agreement also stipulates that Mack must seek state approval before awarding any professional services contracts  and must account for more than $1.1 million in Urban Enterprise Zone payments that have already been allocated for in-city projects.

Another $4 million in UEZ money may not be spent without the approval of DLGS.

The city must abide by the agreement in order to claim the $22 million in transitional aid awarded by the state as part of the annual budget.

According to a spokesman for the DLGS, much of the language in the agreement is boilerplate and the restrictions are imposed on all municipalities seeking transitional aid.

But the hiring requirements are unique to Trenton, according to spokeswoman Hollie Gilroy.

According to the agreement, which has been approved by Mack, the state Division of Local Government Services will solicit candidates for the city’s Business Administrator and Police Director as well as for directors of  the Law, Public Works, Recreation, Inspections, Finance and Housing and Urban Development departments.

The department will interview candidates and forward names to Mack, who must nominate the candidates for the advice and consent of the city council.  The council is required to approve the nomination unless the applicant “did not meet the qualifications of the office for which he or she was nominated.”

The agreement extends to lower level city jobs, which also will require the approval of the DLGS prior to an offer.

Since taking office in 2010, Mack has burned through seven business administrators and three police directors and has struggled to hire qualified people for other positions.  Two of Mack’s hires – former chief of staff Paul Sigmund, arrested in May on drug charges and former business administrator Andrew McCrosson, arrested after he left city employment for stealing campaign finds from U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo –  have been indicted on criminal charges and others have left the city in frustration.

Earlier this year, Mack defied an earlier agreement with the DLGS by promoting Harold Hall as his new Director of Public Works, despite calls from the state agency to demote or fire Hall.  The DLGS told Mack in June that Hall was not fit for his last job as director of the division of public property and should be fired or demoted.   

Mack defied the directive and promptly promoted Hall, who made it his first order of business to hire back his nephew, who had been previously laid off.

This time around, the DCA left nothing to chance, spelling out in clear detail Mack’s restrictions and responsibilities when it comes to hiring city workers and cabinet members.

Mack did not immediately return a call for comment on the agreement with the state.

State takes hiring authority away from Trenton mayor