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Codey Ousted as Borough Administrator

Duties to be consolidated with assistant Burnet.

In a shocking move its backers said was rooted in the budget and its opponents said reeked of politics, the Madison Borough Council on Monday night voted 4-2 to fire longtime Borough Administrator Ray Codey and consolidate his job responsibilities with Assistant Borough Administrator Jim Burnet.

The motion to remove Codey was made by Republican Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto and came near the end of the governing body’s budget work session at .

Republican Dr. Vincent Esposito and Carmela Vitale, the lone Democrat on the six-member Council, voted against the motion.

Codey, a borough resident and administrator since 2007, is the cousin of Democratic state senator and former New Jersey Gov. Dick Codey. The veteran Essex County legislator won a convincing victory this past November to represent the newly-configured 21st District, which includes portions of Morris County, including Madison.

After several hours of budget discussion that included, among other items, the addition of another police officer for $46,000 for the remainder of the year, and an additional $23,000 for Public Works salaries, Tsukamoto introduced her motion to remove Codey by saying the combined jobs would result in substantial savings for residents.

In 2011, Codey was the highest-paid borough employee, earning more than $154,000; Burnet earned $95,000.

Mayor Robert Conley, a Democrat, immediately objected, saying the move to remove Codey was a performance-related matter and had no place in the budget process, and that only he had the authority to appoint or remove Codey — to applause from the stunned audience of borough employees and residents.

But at Tsukamoto’s request, Borough Attorney Joseph Mezzacca confirmed that state statute allows for the removal of a municipal administrator by a two-thirds vote of the governing body.

Tsukamoto two weeks ago called for all municipal department heads to submit job descriptions to determine if the borough “was getting the most bang for its buck.”

Prior to Monday night’s vote, Vitale argued that removing Codey “was not in the best interests of the town.”

But Republican Bob Landrigan insisted that it was a personnel issue.

“Strictly looking at job descriptions, the borough administrator’s duties are covered by the assistant borough administrator, and then some.”

“It is far more than a budgeting move, and you won't convince me otherwise,” said an angry Conley, who defeated GOP incumbent Mary-Anna Holden in the mayoral race in November. “Rising property taxes are not a Madison problem, it’s a state of New Jersey problem.” He then asked Tsukamoto to withdraw her motion.

Esposito, who was attending his first meeting since being arrested on charges of prescription fraud and conspiracy Feb. 17, said the matter required further discussion. “I don’t agree with this at all,” he said.

Councilman Rob Catalanello argued that the move “greatly affects taxes. The tax burden on residents of this town are going to rise dramatically" if Codey was not removed.

Burnet told the meetings that “this is awkward for me, I was unaware of it, but I appreciate that the Council had faith in me.” He noted that he had worked closely with Codey over the past two years to bring the borough more than $2 million in savings.

A typically gracious Codey told the meeting that he did not know of the plans to replace him.

“This was my five-year anniversary here, but I didn’t expect this,” he said in an emotional voice. “Madison will be well served by Jim Burnet.” He thanked previous GOP mayors, and said it had been an honor to work for the governing body. He also thanked the town’s department heads in the audience and pledged an orderly transition period.

After the vote, Conley immediately re-appointed Codey as administrator, which was defeated by an identical 4-2 vote. The Council then confirmed Burnet as administrator, 4-2.

According to the statute, Codey is due three months’ salary, about $38,500.

In public comments, residents vented over what they said was shabby treatment of Codey.

“To save us $100,000, you vote to kick him out?” Tom Haralampoudis asked. “I am embarrassed. Don’t treat us like we don’t know what’s going on. That’s not the way to make decisions.”

“The way the meeting was handled was most inappropriate,” Tim Harrington said. “When the team is winning the coach doesn’t get fired. This was not the right way.”

Related: Should Codey's position have been cut [poll]?

Larry Bruce March 04, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Steve - I'm surprised that you are so naive about the former mayor. You don't think she had anything to do with this? Snap out of it. Then you can check out a Dec. 15 editorial in the Star Ledger re the governor on what might be a related topic.
Time4Dick2Go March 04, 2012 at 12:57 AM
After you read the editorial, Google "Christopher Hartwyk Rutgers Intern" and then ask yourself who is playing politics.
Cheryl Caporaso Maines March 04, 2012 at 01:02 AM
KRIS, YOU ONLY SAW ONE SIDE OF HIM
TJ March 04, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Wells, ask virtually any borough employee about "ruthless tactics" then you will understand why there is an undercurrent of "live by the sword, die by the sword" moving below the surface.That said, the way it happened was wrong but there was no love lost with borough employees. I realize from reading your previous posts you have much disdain for borough employees so your outrage with the consolidation is understandable.
Steve Wells March 04, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Please define "consolidation" as you see it. Also, be advised there are many borough employees whom I hold in the highest regard; any "disdain" you may perceive has only to do with pay scales relative to other positions.
Catherine with a K March 04, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Steve, have you asked Gary for the source of his bogus information on the library budget?
TJ March 04, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Borough administrator job consolidated with assistant borough administrator job. Is it that difficult to understand? Allison didn't have an assistant, did he? During tough times like we have now we really don't have that financial luxury. You of all people should be applauding this move. Of course I say that tongue in cheek. And I reiterate, I do not approve of the way this went down. There has to be more to the story we don't know.
Steve Wells March 04, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Just like there's "more" to why Limbaugh slandered a young law student? Often there ISN'T substance behind the action. As for Burnet being his "assistant," I hasten to remind you that Burnet was originally hired as Downtown Manager, Most of this SAME governing body changed his title AND increased his salary not all that long ago, arguing that both his workload and Codey's demanded it. To now cut Codey loose and retain Burnet is disingenuous at best. In fact, it reeks. The ONLY ones I've heard with ANYTHING negative to say about Codey are borough employees like yourself (and inappropriately Ms. Maines). Want to hear all MY gripes about bosses I'VE had in my life? Now, use your real name.
Devilsfan100 March 04, 2012 at 02:59 AM
The assistant administrators position is a fine example of ONE thing Ray PUSHED through that was not needed. How funny is it that Ray and Jim Burnet's families went away on vacation together and he becomes asst. administrator and now administrator at the hands of his friend. Isn't it funny how things happen and now Jim is left with a pile of S...T to deal with, not fair to him I might say. As for the only one's you hear from is employees, maybe that's because he treated ALL of them like trash! Whats you attraction to people using their real names, who cares where the info comes from! Maybe some people that post will have to worry about retailiation so get off them. We all know you sit around all day waiting to comment on something here. I guess this will get deleted! Again, council members will never come out publically and say why they cut Ray, never gonna happen!!!!
Bill Kingston March 04, 2012 at 03:29 AM
And around and around we go! Did Codey need to go?.......Not sure. Did the Council do this in a completely inappropriate manner and forum that embarassed me as a citizen?.....without a doubt! Will I be looking to vote out a few members next time around?.....can't wait. We wouldn't even be discussing Codey's removal if it wasn't for the cost pressures the town is under. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the economy. Bottom line - our elected officials overspend, mostly to special interest projects, and at the wrong times. The electric cost contract they (the Council approved it) entered into in 2008 destroyed the finances of this town as they always used the surplus generated by same to offset our tax base. It's complicated, but also inexcusable and unacceptable the way Council continues to not recognize their fiscal challenges as a spending problem at this point. Sorry, just my two cents at this point in the discussion.
Anonymous March 04, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Interesting that you note one of the roots of the borough's fiscal problems. So lets go back in time and see who was running council in 2008. From the minutes of the reorganization meeting - Election of Council President Nominations were opened for election of Council President for the year 2008. Ms. Baillie nominated Robert H. Conley, with honor, to serve as Council President for the year 2008. Since there were no further nominations, on motion by Ms. Baillie, seconded by Mrs. Vitale and carried, Robert H. Conley was elected Council President for the year 2008 with the following roll call vote recorded: Yeas: Ms. Baillie, Mrs. Vitale, Mr. Elias, Mr. Conley, Mrs. Tsukamoto Note the make-up of Council - Four Democrats and one Republican. Dr. Esposito was seated at a subsequent meeting to take the mayor's place, but he was also selected by the Dems since they had the votes. The end for Mr. Codey may not have been council's proudest hour, but the town does have real fiscal problems and consolidation of positions was necessary. The Republicans may have made the change, but the fact is that the problems pre-date their control of council.
Anonymous March 04, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Consolidation - e.g., Where there were once two people filling a job function (borough administrator) there is now one. Disdain is the understatement of the year. "Relative" to what positions??
Cheryl Caporaso Maines March 04, 2012 at 12:28 PM
YES IT GOT RESOLVED IN 24 HRS CAUSE STUFF GOT DROP TO DO IT!!! EVERYONE ELSE HAD TO WAIT!!
jerry stevenson March 04, 2012 at 01:21 PM
My understanding it was Tom Bintinger and Mayor Conley.
Catherine with a K March 04, 2012 at 01:29 PM
That is incorrect, or at least not complete. Ray told Tom and another party (who I can't identify without betraying confidences), and they told Gary. (As did Conley.) Gary of all people should be upset with Ray for playing him for a fool -- using him to help spread false political rumors against the Republicans on council.
Larry Bruce March 04, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Stevenson - That's your "understanding"? Where did you get that?
jerry stevenson March 04, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Catherine with an R: Thanks for the clarification on who provided Gary Ruckelshaus with the "misleading" information on funding the library.
Karin Swenson Szotak March 04, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I apologize for my ignorance here, but would someone please enlighten me to the "bogus or misleading" info regarding the library funding. So besides Steve W and Bob C, is anyone else heading to Drip today? Perhaps Stuart should head There as well and report on it. Oh and did you see the write up in the Ledger today? According to the Senator, he said he didn't believe there was any CC political involvement.
Catherine with a K March 04, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Karin, Gary R sent out a very angry email to numerous people saying that Jeannie and Rob were "against the library" and cutting its funding. This was whipping up into a bit of a frenzy until Gary apologized and said he had been misinformed and in fact Jeannie and Rob had proposed full funding for the library. This is just an example of what I mean by Ray being a political animal and someone who played with fire and got burned. It is truly laughable that people here are acting like Ray is somehow above politics -- he is a politician pure and simple.
Larry Bruce March 04, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Steve - re: item 2). Does that mean either one of them did/will put these "condemnations" in writing so it really is "publicly"?
orWELLSian March 04, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Lynching, execution . . . beyond hyperbole. Should we expect to see any of your "reporting" in a credible news source? Or is this just more of the same, a la the Jack Dunne quote that blew up in your face? Not sure how you can't say it isn't Politics when you've been beating the drum all week. You haven't been a supporter of these council members in the past. Your Political Opportunism, cloaked in Humanity, is obvious and beyond shameful.
Slip March 04, 2012 at 05:27 PM
If this is true then at least it helps bring the pieces together. There's been a lot of notes about why this was done. To some extent it has helped to provide insight to the personalities involved but overall it makes everyone out to be more like TV characters then real people. RC the town humanitarian, JT the heartless power hungry politician , RL et.al. the minions who only know right and wrong based on the party to which one belongs. I'm not suggesting this action was not short sited and vindictive. And once it all settles, the rational likely will not justify what and how it was done. But it occurred for reasons somewhere in between what was provided by the council and much of what has since been suggested. And if RC did stir things up by targeting particular members of the council, then the stage was set for what transpired. The Rep Council then not only had the provacation but the means to settle it. They could have thought bettter, but spiders are spiders and politicians are politicians. From that perspective the outcome was almost predictable.
Steve Wells March 04, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Wow, another courageous no-name contributor. To correct your several errors: Clarification for others who may not be aware, Jack Dunne's comment in support of Codey was posted without a "Jr." on it; I and others assumed it was the former mayor not his son. As for my "not being a supporter of these council members in the past," that's totally misinformed. I was very heavily involved in Tsukamoto's initial campaign for Council campaign in 2007, and was also a supporter of Links in 2009. Anyone who needs verification as to the represented positions of Sette and Holden need only speak to a few people who were at the Library Benefit last night where both made their views known. And, finally, Codey's dismissal is what was politically motivated. It's the overwhelming reaction of the Madison public that ISN'T, which is what I stated for those who know how to read.
Larry Bruce March 04, 2012 at 06:01 PM
So that means no, don't expect to see any condemnations in "writing"?
orWELLSian March 04, 2012 at 06:03 PM
I can read, and I will once again say YOUR reaction is all about politics. Just because you supported someone half a decade ago doesn't mean you've been in their corner lately, as a simple perusal of your extensive Patch comments will confirm. One could also wonder how much of your support in 2007 (for Tsukamoto AND Holden) was in the vein of, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." As for the rest, I'll believe it when I read someone who is credible reports it. One final note - Not sure how a handful of commentators and the few people you've spoken to constitute an "overwhelming reaction of the Madison public."
Steve Wells March 04, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I have no idea, Larry. It's not the type of thing people usually issue written statements on. Maybe a reporter should ask them. And I'm with you...amazingly nauseating how many cowards throw vacuous insults on this blog under the umbrella of anonymity.
john r. sette March 04, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Steve , what are you taking about.? I have spoken to the Madison Reubican Chair yesterday for the first time. He called my regarding information on recall elections. I gave him our lawyers phone number and tod him that Madison can count on any County support that they may need in the future.
Steve Wells March 04, 2012 at 08:26 PM
John, I'm talking about laudable opinions you expressed over the last few days (perhaps, in your understanding, privately) to other Repubs, who proudly repeated them to extol your sense of decency as a Party leader.
orWELLSian March 04, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Great, more bogus info from Wells, who is becoming the King of Misinformation of Madison.
Catherine with a K March 04, 2012 at 09:04 PM
So either Mr. Sette lied to the republican committee chair or there are more rumors circulating around designed to make the Republicans on council look bad. . . People start using your common sense and stop believing every stupid thing you hear or read in the paper.

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