Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Patronage is one thing. Not doing the job – and getting paid – is another

by Linda Baum

Assume you are hired to take the minutes at a meeting but you don’t show up. Should you – can you – still do the minutes? Should you be paid for it?

The Middletown Sewerage Authority thinks so. The public agency paid their recording secretary, Marie Schillberg, $150 to prepare the minutes for the March 2014 board meeting, but she wasn’t there.

The Authority doesn’t audio record its meetings, which means you have to be there to know what was said. So how did Ms. Schillberg do the minutes? Someone else who was present simply told her what the votes were and who attended. That’s it. There was no record made of the meeting discussion.

It certainly demonstrates what passes for official minutes by the agency if someone doesn’t even need to be present to do them. Noteworthy, however, is that the March minutes are no different from those for any other month. Except for the date, attendance and list of resolutions, the minutes for each meeting are substantially the same. You can find them on the public documents page at www.tomsanj.com.

Ms. Schillberg, whom research shows is the spouse of former municipal court judge Robert Schillberg, was appointed as the Authority’s recording secretary in 1999 when her husband was sitting on the bench in Middletown and the Authority’s then-director held a seat on the Township Committee. The appointment resolution (Res. 67/99) is the shortest I’ve ever seen at just 20 words, with no mention of salary, duties or term of service.

I’ve asked the Authority’s board members many times what they feel the role of the recording secretary is, but they don’t respond. They have yet to add substance to their minutes and still don’t require their recording secretary to take notes at meetings, though supposedly that’s the job she was hired to do.

Typically, Ms. Schillberg sits for the majority of each meeting with her hands folded or in her lap, pen down, as seen in the photo here. Further, her presence or absence should be part of the official record, but there is no mention of her in the minutes for any meeting.

As a public agency, the Authority is legally required (per the Open Public Meetings Act) to meet a certain standard with regard to the record keeping for its meetings, and therefore responsibility here lies with the Authority and its board. They need to take corrective action and should have done so a long time ago.


Anonymous said...

What a sweet deal for the recording secretary at TOMSA- get paid $150 for a 1 hour or so meeting and she doesn't even have to show up! How can I get a job like that in Middletown? Oh wait. I'm not a Republican!

Mike Nole said...

Being affiliated with the republicans has ZERO to do with this. This site only reports "facts" when it's convenient to be negative about issues towards a hard working group like TOMSA. If you feel so strongly about their ways, then don't pay your sewer bill. I mean... There are other options; rent a Johnny on the spot, get a septic tank, or dig a hole.

Anonymous said...

This has everything to do with patronage appointments. Even Tony Fiore stated that he would not appoint someone unless he knew he had their vote.
I'm sure there are hard working employees at TOMSA. Even with a $5 (7%)increase in fees, they are still the cheapest around.
Still, if the person is not going to attend the meeting, they should not get paid for being there. Even when they are there, minutes are not being taken. The board members are conversing with each other and the professionals, but there is no record of that.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, can she at least adjust the Lazy Boys for the $150?

Anonymous said...

Middletown is ALL ABOUT PATRONAGE !!

Fiore is a classic example of those who forage for power in this town.
Has been the case for over thirty years.

Ever wonder what the meager committeeman's salary is really worth ?

Margie R. said...

Hey Mr Nole,
Wouldn't it make sense to assume that the service would be even cheaper without padding the budget for expenses never incurred? Just a thought.....

Linda Baum said...

Mr. Nole, this post has nothing to do with the services TOMSA provides or the quality of those services. TOMSA has many fine employees, and I’m not saying otherwise. This post has to do with compliance with the laws governing public meetings. I have been attending TOMSA board meetings since November 2011, and the OPMA violations are rampant.

Anonymous said...

Time for legal action? Who audits TOMSA? The township committee appoints the TOMSA membership they need to address this. When TOMSA gave over $800,000 to the township committee to cover revenue short falls to help balance recent township budgets were those actions by TOMSA noted in the Authority's minutes? Time to do away with the Authority and make in part of the Public Works Department. Again when was the last official TOMSA audit and what independent party conducted the audit? It seems that the only semblance of accountability is coming from Ms. Baum and and none is coming from those appointed by the township committee to oversee TOMSA operations. This is an example of corruption that is sanctioned by the Middletown Township Committee.

Anonymous said...

It is clearly time to do away with an independent sewerage authority; it is time to make it part of the public works department; it is time to make sure that there is an annual audit of all sewerage authority activities.

Anonymous said...

Mike Nole, you are so off point with your comment. Ms. Baum's post has nothing to do with the people who actually work for and at TOMSA on a day-to-day basis. Her post is more about the lack of integrity and leadership that doesn't exit on the board that governs TOMSA. Paying some $150 an hour for not doing the job they were contracted to do is an example of corruption. And, it seems that when she does do her job, there is minimal effort applied. I wonder, does this woman also receive health care paid for with township taxes or TOMSA fees? I don't think that Brian Nelson even makes $150 an hour for the work that he does for the township committee.

Anonymous said...

Nelson is part of the problems in this township and be rest assured he is well paid. Remember he's second in command of the Middletown Republican party.....Carton's protege' or something like that.

Ever observe his conduct at TC meetings ?
You would think he was elected to the TC not just their hired legal "mouthpiece".