By Kristy O’Connell
Munsey Park officials on Friday defended the appointment of Mayor Frank J. DeMento’s brother-in-law as village administrator, saying there is a “clear need for greater assistance with administrative work.”
Daniel Breen, 54, was appointed for one year as village administrator last Wednesday, immediately after the village Board of Trustees created the position.
Breen was hired by the village in January 2016 as one of three full-time utility workers. He is DeMento’s wife’s brother.
In a statement posted online Friday afternoon, the village said Breen has taken on additional responsibilities beyond his job description and will help oversee administrative and on-the-ground work.
“Since Dan’s actual duties straddle both field and administrative roles, it was necessary to update his official responsibilities to reflect this role; it was done without changing his compensation schedule,” the statement says.
Among the duties of the village administrator are to “oversee and coordinate activities of all village departments and village employees,” “oversee enforcement of rules and regulations” and “prepare work schedules and detailed maintenance reports,” according to the resolution that created the position.
Former Mayor Harry Nicolaides described the village as “the joke among the other municipalities,” according to Newsday. “They’re running this village like a private club.”
In a telephone interview with Blank Slate Media, he said that the village couldn’t be further from transparent, saying that since DeMento replaced him in 2013, the village has taken action without informing residents. “The scariest part is that many residents have since contacted me, and unfortunately they’re all afraid to speak up because they fear retaliation,” he said.
Nicolaides also said that he does not see why there is a need for a village administrator position when the village has hardly grown over the past 30 years.
The village clerk-treasurer, Barbara Miller, said she was not made aware of the appointment before the meeting and was “shocked” that the creation of the position was not mentioned on the meeting’s agenda.
While she thinks Breen is kind and capable, Miller said she thinks the appointment was unnecessary and is concerned that he lacks the qualifications to oversee other employees. She said he has had no government experience other than his job as a utility worker for the village.
“What if I end up training him for the next couple of months, only to be replaced?” Miller said. “Not only can the board let me go, but under Dan Breen’s new job description, he, too, can let me go.”
Miller said her understanding was that Breen would be receiving a raise, despite the village’s statement saying that the new position does not change his “compensation schedule.” His annual salary is $42,000, according to the statement.
The statement also says that the village administrator does not supplant the village clerk or deputy clerk.
The village ethics code prohibits any village officer or employee from supervising a relative. DeMento abstained from the 3-1 vote to appoint Breen, but the village Board of Trustees has authority over his position.
Miller also said she does not think the new job was submitted to civil service authorities, which would play a role in determining the qualifications required for this type of position.
But the village’s statement says the job and Breen’s appointment “were fully vetted and are compliant with the Village Code and applicable law.”
At one point, a description of Breen’s role was posted online but was taken down shortly after, Miller said.
Breen’s position has not been accounted for in the current year’s budget, and there has not been public notice of whether another utility worker will need to be hired.