The nearly two-year battle within the city administration is coming to an end — City Administrator Peter Pelissier is on the way out, along with $163,000 – but will remain as redevelopment director.
The settlement agreement essentially resolves any lingering litigation, which included an ethics complaint filed by Pelissier against Mayor Rick Proctor.
City Council on Monday night approved a resolution authorizing a settlement agreement and release of the city administrator. Pelissier will receive two payments totaling $163,344 — the first payment of $81,672 before the end of the year, and a second $81,672 payment at the end of January. How that figure was determined or what it’s based upon is unclear. He also will be compensated for any unused sick or vacation days.
The resolution passed by a 6-0 vote, with three council members absent: Council President Samson Steinman, 5th Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier and 1st Ward Councilman Robert Rachlin. The governing body went into executive session for about 20 minutes Monday night before Pelissier emerged with his attorney. There was no comment from council members or the public during the meeting and Pelissier declined to comment afterward citing conditions of the settlement.
Jan. 23 UPDATE: Minutes of the closed meeting (.pdf) that have since been released, as well as a Dec.4 executive session that ran 90 minutes (.pdf), explain better the reasons behind the settlement: The mayor had hired an attorney to investigate a dispute in 2011 over sick and vacation time and work performed by Pelissier as redevelopment director. The attorney’s opinion was to present the settlement as an “alternative to two lawsuits to two lawsuits” that Pelissier’s attorney had promised if an agreement was not reached. The former administrator’s attorney argued that the investigation was in retaliation to Pelissier’s filing a complaint against the mayor with the State Ethics Board.
The 11-page agreement indicates Pelissier “had previously expressed a desire to resign from his position as business administrator.” He has 21 days to consider all terms and conditions and has seven days to revoke it after he signs, which is expected shortly. It was not mentioned whether he will remain as redevelopment director. UPDATE: He will remain as redevelopment director.
Proctor did not return an email or voicemail message seeking comment. The city administrator is typically appointed, and reappointed annually at the January reorganization meeting, by the mayor with consent of City Council. A new mayor typically brings in his own people but Proctor reappointed Pelissier when he took office in 2011, succeeding longtime Mayor James Kennedy, a fellow Democrat. It did not take long before they started bickering, sometime after issues relating to the hiring of a new health officer. Proctor served as the city’s health officer until he was elected mayor in 2010 to a four-year term. Despite all running as Democrats that year, he and the City Council also grew increasingly contentious, with the governing body reducing his salary a year ago.
Pelissier has been city administrator since being appointed in 1991 by Kennedy before retiring in about 2004, replaced by Robert Gorman for a few years. He gained some notoriety for collecting a pension, in addition to consulting fees for his work with the Redevelopment Agency, during that time. He returned to the area to work briefly as business administrator in Morristown before coming back to Rahway in 2007 as city administrator and redevelopment director.