Western New Jersey

Phillipsburg municipal raises pushed back after abrupt adjournment

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - Salary increases for some municipal workers are pushed back again after an impromptu adjournment Tuesday evening that left town officials shaking their heads.

Council member Mark Lutz motioned to adjourn the meeting after it devolved into a debate on whether Council President Todd Tersigni was allowed to altogether skip a resolution on the agenda that was up for vote.

He wasn’t.

Resolution 2017-186, a bill to increase the salary of the mayor’s confidential aid, is one of several Tersigni asked to be removed from the night’s agenda.

Though originally removed, the proposed salary increases were later written into agendas handed out to town officials under after counsel from Town Solicitor Richard Wenner.

Other positions that had been taken off the public agenda included town human resource manager, plumbing inspector and tax collector.

Wenner noted that it wasn’t proper to remove agenda items and said he told Tersigni as much.

The resolutions were not re-written into agendas handed out to the public, causing confusion and crowd anger when council member Joshua Davis objected to Tersigni passing over 2017-186.

Davis called a point of order, saying that Tersigni could not change the agenda once it had been put before the body.

Tersigni tried to speak over Davis, who continued calling for 2017-186 to be heard.

“I’m asking you to be quiet,” Tersigni said.

“No, sir, I will not be quiet,” Davis responded and began reading from a book of parliamentary procedure.

Several people, including Tersigni, began called for Davis’ removal from the meeting as he and Tersigni continued to speak over each other.

“It’s not Even on the agenda,” one woman shouted amid the clamor.

Following Lutz’s motion, Tersigni quickly agreed. Sweeping his papers together, he walked out as the audience called for him to come back and formally vote on adjournment.

Salary increases have been discussed in other formats for some time. The issue was brought up at the 2017 budget hearing then broached again when council adopted an ordinance setting salary ranges for town employees.

The salary increases themselves were introduced at the September 5 meeting and promptly tabled for additional research.

Tersigni said he didn’t want to vote on the resolution until the mayor could discuss it with council. The mayor had missed a 10 a.m. meeting on Sep. 15 to hash out the salary increases, he said.

Ellis maintained he’d been told 10 a.m. but that the meeting began at 9:30 and was over by the time he arrived.

Once un-tabled, action on each item should have been taken, according to Wenner.

“It was un-tabled this evening and I thought we were going to hear it,” Davis said after the meeting. “I’m ready to have debate on it. It was on the agenda.”

All unfinished business from the agenda, including the remaining salary increases, will be continued at the October 3 meeting.

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