Monroe Mayor's Powers Questioned A Majority On The Township Council Are Claiming The Right To Play A Greater Role In Key Appointments.

Posted: November 22, 1999

MONROE TOWNSHIP — Saying they have no confidence in Mayor Mary Duffy's ability to make critical appointments, a majority of Township Council members appear poised to oust her handpicked business administrator.

Tomorrow is the last regular township meeting before Pete Brusco's probationary period runs out Dec. 7.

"I'm not under any illusion that I'm going to be appointed," Brusco said.

The mayor has the authority to name key administrators, but the council can vote down those choices. But how far does the council's authority extend?

To Councilwoman Kathy Simon, a supporter of Duffy, it is the council's job to advise and provide consent on appointments - not be a part of the selection process.

Duffy "feels really confident in him and comfortable with him, and she's the one who has to work with him day to day," Simon said. "It's her choice, not our choice."

But the council members who have opposed Brusco's appointment see things differently. They say they should play a role in the selection, especially since the position of business administrator carries the greatest responsibility in the township.

"The mayor has a very bad track record when it comes to appointing key positions," Councilman Richard Coe said.

He pointed to the job of public safety director, who is responsible for overseeing the Police and Fire Departments. Since January, the position has been filled twice by Duffy with the council's approval - first by Bob Otto and then by Vincent Yancey - only to be vacated soon afterward.

Otto said he had a time conflict with another job and Yancey resigned because of a family illness. The position remains open, with Duffy the acting director.

"It was embarrassing for all of us. My scrutiny would not be as strict [now] had it not been for these failed appointments," Coe said.

None of the council members who have opposed Brusco's appointment had any complaints about his job performance.

To Duffy and the three council members who support her - Simon, David Cornell and Len Dramesi - it is politics as usual in Monroe.

The other four "are not giving me the means to run the township," Duffy said. "This is a personal vendetta against me. It has nothing to do with Pete."

Duffy said that without a business administrator to help her, she would be left alone to draft the budget and negotiate two major contracts - one for police and the other for rank-and-file township employees - that expire at the end of December.

At tomorrow night's meeting, the council has several options: to appoint Brusco, table another motion to appoint him, or vote him out. If no one makes a motion regarding Brusco, he will still be out of a job come Dec. 7.

Duffy picked Brusco in early August after she and a panel - including her secretary, Simon, and some township directors and advisers - interviewed about 15 candidates. The appointment was rejected 5-2 by the council Aug. 10.

Under the state Faulkner Act, Brusco was granted a 120-day trial period.

At a Nov. 9 meeting, Simon - who had voted against Brusco on Aug. 10 - made a motion to appoint him. The council voted 4-3 to table that motion, Simon this time joining the minority.

Council President John "Winnie" Sharp wrote three memos to Duffy, dated Jan. 8, Aug. 6 and Nov. 10, requesting the resumes of other candidates who applied for the business administrator job. The Aug. 6 memo was written on behalf of himself, Coe, and Councilmen Robert Schober and Tony Ayres.

"We want the best person for the job. That's all we're interested in," Sharp said. "And I want to be a part of that [selection] process."

Ayres, Coe and Sharp said they were waiting for the resumes before they would vote on the appointment. Schober declined to comment.

Duffy said she no longer had the resumes; she got rid of them as soon as she decided on Brusco.

"That's convenient," Ayres said. "How many people would not keep records in a case like this? What if the person doesn't work out?"

According to Duffy, the council members already had their chance to check out Brusco's qualifications. Before the Aug. 10 vote, the council had the opportunity to review Brusco's resume and ask him questions about his past.

But Sharp said he had left that meeting worried that Brusco might not be qualified because Brusco did not have a business degree and had worked as an administrator only part time.

"I was concerned if he had the experience," Sharp said. "It's a big job."

Brusco had been director of public works and acting borough manager in Yeadon, Pa. He was asked to leave the borough manager position, but attributes that to the politics involved in a turnover of administrations.

Before working in government, Brusco was president and chief executive officer of his own mechanical contracting company in Philadelphia. He said he had closed the firm in 1992 to prevent losses in the floundering economy of the early 1990s.

Before Duffy appointed Brusco, the township did not have a business administrator for the three months after Nick Pileggi left the position in May. Duffy fired Pileggi after she came into office in January and appointed Shirley Harris to the position. When the council voted against that appointment, Duffy allowed Pileggi to stay on a two-year probationary status. Pileggi was not happy with that arrangement and left, Duffy said.

Brusco is getting an annual salary of $56,500 - $6,500 less than Pileggi was making when he left.

Those who support Brusco say that, so far, he has proved his abilities as an administrator.

"He's doing a fantastic job," Dramesi said. "He has fit the bill and exceeded it. There's no reason not to appoint him."

No matter what happens, Brusco said, he will stay until Dec. 7 to help Duffy at least begin work on the budget and contract negotiations.

"I'll be here up until the 120th day to fulfill my promise to Mary," he said.

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