CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The township’s personnel policies came under scrutiny by a committeeman during the Monday, Sept. 19 meeting in Town Hall, prompted by public questions and the recent departure of several employees, including the business administrator, chief financial officer, and deputy clerk.
At the workshop meeting, Committeeman Jeff DeVico questioned township policies ranging from employee education to salaries and stipends, to exit interviews for employees who resign.
At a committee meeting earlier this month, Dan Lockwood, former committeeman, challenged committee members over the resignations of Connie Mahon, business administrator, John Clifford, CFO, and Suzanne Stocker, deputy clerk, although he directed his comments at Mayor Mike Clark.
Lockwood, a Republican, Clark, a Democrat, and Pat Taylor, and independent conservative, are in a three-way race for a seat on committee. Clark is seeking reelection. Lockwood hopes to regain a seat lost to DeVico last year. Taylor, a Board of Education member, is seeking her first term on committee.
At the Wednesday, Sept. 7 meeting, Lockwood, as well as other township residents, pushed the committee, wanting to know whether committee members had reviewed exit interviews by the employees.
“Did you receive an exit interview from John (Clifford)?” Lockwood asked during the public comment period. “Did you receive any exit interviews?”
Clark, during the same meeting, said he hadn’t received any employee exit interviews, and he wasn’t aware of anything unusual about the resignations. DeVico and Committeeman Tim Donohue also said they had not seen any exit interviews.
“I’ll check with HR (Human Resources),” Clark said.
At the early September meeting, Stocker, who was in the gallery, said that she had not been asked to give an exit interview when she resigned as deputy clerk.
“I was never asked why I was leaving,” she said. “I was never given an opportunity to stay.” Stocker said that her meeting with township’s HR department “was simply to turn in my keys.”
Other residents pressed committee members about personnel policies at the Sept. 7 meeting and committee members promised answers at the next meeting.
On Monday, Sept. 19 DeVico followed through on his promise, noting that he’d asked for several personnel related topics to be inserted onto the work session agenda.
“There were several questions at the last meeting, and there were some things that administrations should have done,” he said. DeVico said that a human resources checklist for departing employees didn’t match the policies and procedures manual, specifically calling out the lack of a requirement for an exit interview on the checklist.
“I don’t believe that any exit interviews were ever shared with committee,” DeVico said, noting that the perceived issue with personnel policies has been going on for years, and is not new to the current administration.
DeVico asked that all employees who resign their positions be given the chance to offer reasons why.
“I want to see them all,” DeVico said. “From the $9 an hour employee to the $115,000 a year employee, I want to see them all.”
Public Works employees typically start at about $9 an hour. Mahon, whose resignation is final on Nov. 29, earns $116,000, according to a public records search posted by the Bergen Dispatch.
Clark said that the checklist has been used by the township all along, and that it’s being reworked to include items from the policies and procedures, specifically to include the need for an exit interview.
“But some people just don’t want to say why they’re leaving,” the mayor said.
Vera Kalish, the township personnel officer, agreed with Clark, and said that exit interviews with resigning employees have not typically been done.
“In a perfect world, we would do them with all who leave,” she said. “But not all of them come in to human resources. Some leave early. And I already know why some of them left; they’ve taken another job for more money.”
“If we have the opportunity to ask these questions, we should,” DeVico said.
Donohue said that as a committeeman, he didn’t want to see every exit interview from every departing employee, unless there was an issue that should be addressed.
“We should be above the fray,” Donohue said. “We should trust the administrator and the deputy administrator to do their job and let us know if they see something we should know about.”
Frank Corrado, the township’s attorney, apparently agreed with Kalish.
“Policies look nice on paper,” he said. “But this is not a perfect world.”
Corrado cautioned against changing the policies manual without other input.
“Any changes to the police should be reviewed by labor council, and then introduced as an ordinance,” he said.
Corrado also said that exit interviews are part of an employee’s personnel file, and that casual review by committee members could be ill-advised. “An exit interview can be a minefield of privacy issues,” he said.
“It’s a good idea if you see the exit interviews of the people in your departments that are leaving,” he said. But committee members are policy makers, as well as department heads, he noted. “It’s a delicate area, and you have to be careful when you do it.”
No ordinances were introduced, nor changes made at the work session.
“I will be asking more questions, if that’s what the committee asks,” Kalish said.