Resident: Talk about restructuring in public

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Carole Mattessich of Middle Township told township officials this week that she opposes having talks of restructuring departments held behind close doors.

Township Committee is considering reorganizing the sewer and public works departments and outsourcing animal control and buildings and facilities/janitorial.

Mattessich compared Middle’s private restructuring discussions to a company deciding to create two new executive vice president positions rather than hiring a treasurer. There is no need to protect the employees by holding private talks she indicated.

“That’s really very separate from the notion of personal details that would pertain to a particular individual,” she said.

Mattessich said everyone should be included in talks of reorganizing Middle Township.

Mattessich is a former Gazette reporter and a lawyer.

Mayor Dan Lockwood said at Monday’s meeting that he agrees that the reorganization discussions should take place in the public. But there’s more than meets the eye, he indicated.

“They go hand-in-hand is really the reality of it,” he said. “And there’s no way to discuss restructuring of these departments and the impacts that may be realigning things will have without discussing personnel, and every member of that is potentially impacted here has been Rice noticed.”

Under the state open meeting law, governing bodies must discuss all business in open meetings, with a few exceptions, including contract negotiations and personnel matters. When a specific employee’s job or performance is being discussed, that employee has a right to be told, by what’s called a Rice notice. The employee also has a say in whether the meeting is to be public or behind closed doors.

Township employees received letters dated Jan. 28, allowing them to choose if the meeting should be public or not. Some of them came to the closed-door meeting on Monday night.

Personnel matters are part of the closed-door discussions, Lockwood said.

“Now when it becomes evident that we think we have some consensus, then we might take a certain direction, I have the intention of taking it on the road, per se, with public works, with department heads and making sure they don’t have any criticism of it as well as potentially having a work session to finalize the details because there are a lot of moving parts here,” he said.

Committeeman Tim Donohue said he shares Mattessich’s aggravation.

“Even on the inside it’s frustrating,” he said. “From your seat I would be frustrated, and I understand some of the frustration of some of the employees as well.”

In the end, Donohue said, he hopes the township would be better run and taxpayers see a cost savings.

Township Solicitor Marcus Karavan said the resolution to hold a closed-door session includes contracts for animal control and janitorial services.

Action Janitorial Inc. of Pleasantville and Daycare Cleaning Service of Cherry Hill submitted bids to the township for janitorial services, and Shore Animal Control of Seaville and Tri-County Animal Control Services of Tuckahoe for animal control, according to information provided by the township clerk’s office.

There are about 40 employees in the sewer and public works departments. Animal control has one full-time officer and two substitutes.

Committeewoman Susan DeLanzo was absent from the Monday’s meeting.

– Alex Davis 


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