Category Archives: Township Administrator

>Heard It In The Hallways….

>Last week when an anonymous poster left a tidbit of information in the comments section for the post “Middletown Tax Assessor To Receive $15K “Bonus” Under New Salary Ordinance”, referring to Middletown Township Administrator Tony Mercantante being offered a job in Trenton by the Christie Administration, I found it hard to believe. I didn’t think it was plausible that the guy would leave a nice cushy position in Middletown making over $125,000 a year, to take a less stable, patronage job that wouldn’t pay him anywhere near what he is currently being paid. But I kept it in the back of my mind and started to ask around. What I was told surprised me, but after it was explained I could understand it.

The person that I talked with did not want their name mentioned, but as a Township employee they can be found very often around Town Hall. This person told me that Tony Mercantante was indeed offered a job down in Trenton, somewhere within the State Planning Office and he will be leaving Middletown for his new gig sometime in May.

When I questioned the person why Mercantante would leave Middletown, they explained it thusly:

The late Judy Stanley, who was often referred to as the Queen of Middletown, was very fond of Mercantante and acted as a mentor to him for many years. She was instrumental in Mercantante’s rise through the system. It was Stanley that brought Mercantante back to Middletown as a planner after a few years absence working out of state and it was her idea to promote him from his Township planning job to his current position as Township Administrator, when Bob Czech left that position in order to become Monmouth County Administrator a few years back.

Once Judy Stanley placed Tony Mercantante into the position as the Township Administrator, it became evident to some that he was in over his head. They thought that he had a problem with telling the truth, as in, being to honest when some one asked a question, while others thought that he was (is) a bungler who causes more problems than what he solves.

Allegedly, 3 out of the 5 currently sitting Township Committee people can’t stand him and have been making it extremely uncomfortable for Mercantante to do his job. As a result, it’s often hard to get a straight answer out of him. And on top of it all, Mercantante has to deal with a Township Attorney who has a Napoleon Complex and who also happens to be the #2 Republican in Middletown, Brian Nelson, on almost every decision, every day (that alone would be enough for me to seek out new employment).

So, as a result of all this, I was told that the powers that be, seeing that things have not been working out to their liking for sometime now, have worked out a face-saving arrangement for Tony Mercantante to leave his position as Township Administrator, for a job with the Christie Administration in Trenton.

If this turns out to be true, and I have no doubt about the person who passed along this information, than I want to wish Tony Mercantante well in his new position down in Trenton. I’ve personally never had a problem with him he has always been personable with me on the few occasions that we have talked. He probably deserves better than what he is getting, I always thought that he was on top of things, but then again since when have I thought anything that meant a damn to those that run Middletown anyway.

Good luck Tony, your going to need it now more than ever.

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Filed under Brian Nelson, Gov. Chris Christie, Judith Stanley Coleman, Middletown NJ, planning, Tony Mercantante, Township Administrator, Trenton NJ

>Ordinance 2011-3027 And When Is A Salary Freeze, Not A Salary Freeze Explained

>I had some spare time on Friday so I thought that I would do a little research into the new salary ordinance being proposed by the Middletown Township Committee. I went down to Town Hall to request some information about it, but before I explain to you what I found out, here is a little rundown on what the new ordinance is about and what it is replacing.

Ordinance 2011-3027 Amending Management Salaries and Non-Union Employees, which can be found on the township website under the Clerk’s tab, is an attempt by the Township to be more transparent (TC Attorney Brian Nelson’s words) when it comes to non-union employees salaries. The ordinance list about 50 non-union job titles broken down into 5 sections titled:
Management
Statutory Employees(N.J.S.A. 40A:9-165)
Officers
Elected Officials
and
Special Assignments (Expiring 12/31/2011)
Accompanying each job titled is a single salary figure with no further explanation, which leads one to believe that those salaries are the current employee salaries or will be once the ordinance is approved. It is very misleading.
This proposed ordinance will replace existing Ordinance 2009-2996 , which instead of providing a single salary per job title, contained salary ranges per job title. Employee salaries could fall anywhere within a range that would reflect position (title and description) value in the broad market place; the regional market place; specific industry, as well as allow comparison across industries.
As I said, I went down to Town Hall thinking that I could get some information via an OPRA request on employees that currently fill positions and their current salaries as outlined in Ordinance 2011-3027, but I was wrong. It seems that you can only OPRA actual document that contain information, you can’t request that a list or document be generated to provide you with information.
Be that as it may, while I was discussing what I wanted to know, I kept being told that all the information that I wanted to know was listed in the ordinance and that NO employee would be receiving any raises in the ordinance due to a salary freeze which was in effect.
When I stated that the information I wanted wasn’t there, that I questioned current salaries as opposed to salaries list in the ordinance and that current salaries for a handful of employees that I found on the APP’s Data Universe where listed higher, sometime much higher, than those in the proposed new ordinance, it was suggested that I speak to Township Administrator Tony Mercantante.
Tony Mercantante explained that what I was trying to do was not possible because lists like the one I was asking for didn’t exist. When I told him that I now understood that, that I questioned the salaries listed in the new ordinance and whether they were accurate, he stated hat the ordinance language will be rewritten before it is reintroduced Monday night because he had concerns that the language was misleading . Mercantante stated that the salaries listed in ordinance 2011-3027 are for starting base pay only and are not reflective of what individuals in those positions are currently earning. But the assured me that no one was getting a salary raise because there was a pay freeze in effect.
He said that many are making more money annually than what the ordinance calls for due to longevity and merit pay. When I asked him for a list of salaries of current non union employees so that I could compare anyway, he said some of those numbers may change between now and the time the numbers would be provided. I asked him how that could be when there is a “salary freeze” in effect? Mercantante became a little wishy-washysaying that the salary freeze is only for actual raises to the base pay rate; step raises, longevity, merit or promotional type raises are not affected by the freeze.

I asked how could that be when you are dealing with non-union employees? He said it is in the contracts. What contracts I said, since when did non-union workers and department heads have contracts? He said whatever contracts are in effect for union employees, the same terms of those contracts hold for non-union Township employees.

I left there shaking my head because it didn’t make sense, but then again when did anything that the people who run Middletown do make sense?

So the bottom line for those asking questions or leaving comments on this blog is, proposed ordinance 2011-3027 salaries are starting base only and are not reflective of what individuals in those positions are currently earning. These salaries would be for new employees only, no current non-union employees will have money taking away from them based on the figures in this ordinance.

Also as far as I’m concerned,there is no true salary freeze happening. If a merit, longevity or other type of employment milestone is met by an employees of the township, they will be receiving a salary increase. So if you happen to one of the lucky ones who will enjoy a bump in your pay sometime this year congratulations! All others, piss off as they say.
On a side note, I asked Mercantante when the budget would be introduced. He said tentatively April 4th as part of the workshop meeting. He does not expect at this time to hold a special presentation meeting to introduce the budget, but that may or may not change just as the April 4th date might.

When I asked him about having to submit the budget to the state by March 16th, he said that date keeps changing because the state isn’t ready. So as usual the budget introduction is a floating target, but when it is introduced, we will be able to see that planned salaries for all those listed in the ordinance without and Opra request YEAAHH !

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Filed under merit pay, Middletown NJ, OPRA requests, resolutions and ordinances, salary freeze, step raises, Tony Mercantante, Township Administrator

>Are Local Crimes Reports Being Released?

>There are some residents in Middletown wondering what’s going on around town. They have been hearing from friends and neighbor about a rash of car break-ins and burglaries that have been ongoing throughout the township. When they look in the local newspapers’ Police Blotter or Township News section for information about these crimes, there never seems to be any crimes listed or reported on from Middletown. It’s almost as if crime statistics are being covered up or not reported.

Sure there are some of crimes being reported, like the guy who punched out a Middletown Police officer at Target on the morning of “Black Friday” or the guy who attempted to shoplift a shopping cart full of items from the Port Monmouth Foodtown on November 23rd and even more recently, the bookkeeper who was stealing benefits from her boss. But very seldom do you hear news about car or home break-ins.

During the November 15, 2010 Township Committee meeting Lincroft resident Melanie Elmiger, voiced her concerns about the number of home break-ins in the Lincroft area. She stated that she could not find any information in the newspapers about these crimes and that she was made aware of them through an email chain. She said that she would like to see some type of informational alert sent out by the Police Chief using the Township’s reverse 9-1-1 system telling residents that they need to be more vigilant, and that the township’s website should have tips on how to keep homes more secure. Ms. Elmiger wanted the Committee to acknowledge that there was (is) a problem and that something is going to be done so people can feel safer.

The Township Administrator Tony Mercantante stated that this was a problem in many of the surrounding towns, not just Middletown. He said that the police have measures in place to deal with this and are actively pursuing this problem.

Ms. Elmiger then asked if the Township Committee had any answers as to how to improve the patrols around town, to which Mercantante responded that the police chief addresses the police and that while people may not see a patrol car in the neighborhood, they are being patrolled throughout the day.

Ms. Elmiger left the podium not very satisfied with the response that was given to her even though Tony Mercantante gave a credible answer that made some sense, that is, if you know there is a problem than you let those that have the expertise deal with it. You don’t want to tip off anyone that may be committing crimes in the area, by announcing that patrols would be stepped up or additional measures will be taken in different areas around town to scare would be robbers away if you may have clues or patterns to the break-ins that may lead to an arrest. And apparently 3 weeks later that is exactly what happened. On December 7th the Middletown Police arrested Manuel Cortez, from Barnegat NJ, for committing multiple residential burglaries in Middletown over a six-month period.

This was great news for Lincroft residents; they thought that their local crime problems were over. Unfortunately however, emails between neighbors are still addressing this issue, break-ins are still taking place in the Lincroft section of town, as well as others, with no notices being made about them in any sort of timely or informative manner. It is a lack of this type of information that is leading many residents wondering if crime in Middletown is somehow being covered up or under reported.

Those that control the town are very proud of the fact that Middletown has been named one of the Best 100 Places To Live in America by Money Magazine in three of it’s last five surveys. One of the few criteria that Money magazine bases its ratings on is “Local Crime Rate” and according the survey Middletown averages 15 personal property crimes per 1,000 crimes reported, which is lower than the 24 crimes per average of the rest of the Top 100 towns.

Residents question whether or not it is because of the superficial Money Magazine Top 100 ranking, that local crime reports are not being properly disseminated. They are feeling that their safety, personal property and wellbeing are less important to local officials than it is to maintain Money Magazine’s approval as one of the best places to live.

At times it sure seems that way.

Who decides what information is released after a crime is committed and what makes one type of crime more reportable than another? This is a process that residents want to know about; it seems to be a guarded secret.

By not informing residents of particular types of crimes in their area, are local officials acting responsibly? Many residents don’t think so; they want to know what is happening and what is being done to combat the problem.

If the economy continues to remain in the doldrums and many more lose their jobs in the coming year, crime will naturally continue to be a problem. I don’t think it is much to ask of our local officials, that they keep residents informed of what is happening in their community. Why should residents need to rely on email chains from family, friends and neighbors to remain informed about such issues? It doesn’t make sense.

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Filed under crime, crime reports, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, Township Administrator

Middletown GOP – Liars, Lairs Pants on Fire: Update On Energy Grant

On Monday I posted about how the Middletown Republicans were once again trying to take credit for something that they did not do. I went into great detail and even posted an audio clip to explained how the Middletown GOP were taking credit for others work 

A short while before the Bayshore Neighborhood Meeting, which took place on March 26th, Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, received a phone call from a local reporter asking him what intentions the township had for the $610,000 windfall that Middletown was in line to receive from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program (a program created by Democratic U.S Senator Robert Menendez) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or more commonly know as President Obama’s stimulus package, to be used for township projects that would promote energy efficiency, such as the townships Green Initiatives.   
Mercantante was taken by surprise because he had no idea that the township even applied for such a grant. When he announced the townships good fortune to attendants of the meeting, Mayor Pam and Deputy Gerry were very quick to take credit for their proactive attempts to secure the grant.
Letters from local GOPer’s started to appear in publications praising the mayor and her underlings for a job well done. The problem with this however was that none of it was true.
The township never applied for the grant in advance because the program essentially did not exist until $3.2 billion was made available through the president’s stimulus package that was signed in February.     
To further prove what I am saying, all one needs to do is listen to this new audio clip from Monday nights Township Committee workshop meetingto her Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, says that the grant was only made available to the township and that the township still needs to a lot of work to apply for it or it would be lost.

 In conclusion allow me to say, Mercantante presented the next step in the energy grant from Washington to the committee at its workshop meeting on Monday night, which makes it very clear that the township or anyone associated with  the township never applied for the funds because Mercantante clearly  says that the next step is to submit the application.

This solidifies the fact that the GOP was caught in an outright lie and they should be held to it. There is no excuse for misleading the public. It is plainly clear that the Middletown GOP can not handle the basic needs of the people by taking credit for something that is clearly not true.

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Filed under Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, Middeltown Township, Middletown Republicans, Tony Mercantante, Township Administrator, US. Sen. Robert Menendez