The tenacious Brigantine Taxpayers Association (BTA) is fired up for May 13. It’s on this date when Brigantine residents with voter rights will decide the fate of Dan Howard, the acting Public Safety Director. What’s best choice for the city and taxpayers? The BTA offers up their position on this divisive and often misunderstood issue:
When vacancies occurred in the position of chiefs in the three public safety departments last year, the City manager first made attempts to fill them in-house. These weren’t successful. To fill this void with administrative leadership she hired an interim Director of Public Safety. This director is a civilian administrator who can set policy and the budget, but does not, by state statute, perform any law enforcement functions. Brigantine’s interim Director of Public Safety earns $70,000. on an annual basis, receives no benefits, and has done a good job.
The manager, under Brigantine’s council/manager form of government, its responsibilities etc. set by state statute, was chosen unanimously by vote of City council . He or she hires, fi res and negotiates union contracts. Brigantine’s manager, Ms. Blumenthal, has our support for determining and providing necessary cost-effective leadership in the public safety departments whether with chiefs or a director.
Both council and the manager have stated that their preference is to have chiefs. They and we do not support having both the chief and director positions filled on a permanent basis at the same time. An interim appointment is not a commitment for a permanent job.
The City manager and council have repeatedly emphasized that a chief must not only have the required departmental qualifications, this person must also be able to be a professional partner in municipal administration with a perspective and attitude broad enough to encompass the best interests of the whole community, not just those of a particular department.
This person must be willing to adapt and change, knowing that the status quo is not sustainable. So far, the manager has not found anyone to meet this additional requirement.
With the passage of the 2014 salary ordinance, the majority on council listed certain positions to provide for flexibility, choice and the opportunity to cut costs in its decisions regarding employment. One of these choices is an interim director. Having this management tool offers the manager flexibility, particularly when time, cost and suitability are factors to be considered.
Having a listed position doesn’t mean that it has to be filled. It simply allows it to be filled if and when needed.
The City has had the position of director along with chiefs for decades. The previous City manager was also a Director of Public Safety. This position was challenged by taxpayers, but the previous majority party didn’t think it necessary to remove it.
Now that the election is about to take place, with the possibility of a “yes’ vote, the City manager is starting the official process, interviewing those who present themselves as candidates and evaluating their qualifications, of filling the chiefs’ positions in order to be prepared for just such an outcome. If the “yes” vote wins and the Director’s position is eliminated, the manager must make appointments regardless of suitability. Flexibility and choice will no longer be available to the City manager in this essential decision.
Who benefits under these circumstances? Not the taxpayers!
If an appointee as chief doesn’t perform up to a standard, the municipality would have difficulty replacing said appointee. That’s not true with a director. In addition to professional competence, we should expect a qualified appointee to stay in the job and provide continuity for the department and the administration.
Overall, there is the consideration of the cost of different positions which affects all aspects of municipal government and our property taxes.
The Brigantine Taxpayers Association’s position is this: an acceptable level of public safety with an affordable cost to the taxpayers.
We believe the better choice is NO and urge voters to vote NO on Tuesday, May 13.
Brigantine Taxpayers Association