Council overrides mayor’s anti-nepotism veto

In another instance where the City Council and Mayor Rick Proctor parted ways, the governing body on Monday night voted unanimously (9-0) to override his veto of an ordinance that would have established an “anti-nepotism policy” within the city’s personnel policies.

“Never in a million years did I expect an official in Rahway would veto” an anti-nepotism ordinance, 6th Ward Councilman Samson Steinman said at Monday night’s meeting. He cited an anti-nepotism bill at the state level, introduced by Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), and reiterated a statement from the assemblywoman about the need for such legislation.

Proctor and the City Council sparred earlier this year over allegations that he tried to get his wife hired as the new health officer, a position he held for several years before becoming mayor. The council originally adopted the ordinance Nov. 14 and the mayor vetoed the measure (O-33-11) on Nov. 23. In his remarks at the Nov. 14 meeting, Proctor said he found it odd that the co-sponsor of the city’s anti-nepotism ordinance was the “same council member who called me in June begging for a job for his child this summer,” referring to 1st Ward Councilman Robert Rachlin, who seconded the measure with Steinman as the primary sponsor.

Former Mayor James Kennedy had an interesting comment about the veto in today’s Star-Ledger story: “What the heck is he thinking?” Proctor was Democratic municipal chairman for many years during Kennedy’s tenure as mayor. “Just when you thought you’d heard it all. The veto was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in politics,” Kennedy told the Ledger.

In a memo to the city clerk Nov. 23, Proctor outlined several reasons for his veto, including exposure to lawsuits based on racial and religious discrimination and jeopardizing the city’s status as an equal opportunity employer. He also believed it conflicts with the open competitive process set forth by the state Civil Service Commission and is discriminatory “on face value by eliminating potentially qualified job candidates solely on the basis of relationship.”

Hiring of personnel originates with directors and the business administrator, not the mayor and council, so Proctor argued that influence would be exerted at that level. “If the ordinance is going to be more than just window dressing…the scope should be expanded to include department directors and administrator at a minimum. Even a cursory review of nepotistic relationships among city employees will support this argument,” he wrote.

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