By Samuel Glasser
Munsey Park village trustees vigorously defended their decision to hire the mayor’s brother-in-law for the newly created post of village administrator at a board meeting Thursday.
The trustees stuck to their position during a public discussion that was heated at times even though Daniel Breen, the brother-in-law of Munsey Park Mayor Frank DeMento, has declined to accept the position in the face of criticism from residents.
He was named to the position on May 10 but pulled out by the end of the month.
Breen will continue in his current role as one of three full-time utility workers, according to a statement released by the village on May 30.
Trustee Larry Ceriello justified the new administration position and Breen’s appointment, saying that the village needed someone to represent it at meetings of local governments.
He explained that the state is trying to get local governments to share services and “we need someone to attend these meetings, particularly when they are held in the daytime.
“We selected Dan. There’s been all sorts of misinformation in the press. He already goes to meetings,” Ceriello said.
“Everybody comes out of the woodwork and says it’s nepotism. . . . There is no salary increase,” he added, his voice rising. “We selected the most qualified person who happens to be the mayor’s brother-in-law. It’s absurd.”
Ceriello also said that much of the criticism of the appointment amounted to character assassination.
DeMento defended the decision to create the position without public discussion since “we don’t discuss personnel matters in public.”
A member of the audience advised everyone to “dial back the temperature.”
Resident Brian Dunning took issue with Ceriello’s dismissal of questions about nepotism.
“Nepotism is a big deal,” he said, referring to numerous state and local public officials who have recently been convicted or are under indictment for misconduct in office.
Ceriello acknowledged that the controversy was self inflicted.
“We were trying to do the right thing,” he said. “But instead of calling us, people ran to the press and engaged in character assassination. . . . .I’m happy to defend the position.”
Residents pointed out that the creation of the administrator’s post was a structural change in the village government, yet it was put through without public notice or discussion.
Resident Jim McGivney recommended that the village board convene a committee to study the need for a village administrator to “fully ventilate the issue.”
Munsey Park has five employees: the village clerk, assistant clerk, and three utility workers. Ceriello said he was not in favor of hiring a sixth employee.
The board on May 30 issued a statement that it “will continue its search for a well-qualified candidate, in an effort to increase efficiency within the village. . .”
In other business, the board said that a new five-year contract was signed with Meadow Carting for garbage collection, the plans for renovations at Waldman Park are not yet final, and United Paving was awarded the repaving project for Inness Place which will include the installation of Belgian block curbs.