Town Manager’s Contract Up For Vote Monday

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Town Manager Joe Martin (r) at the Town Council's reorganization ceremony July 2. He is the object of a criminal complaint filed by Council member Michael Nochimson (l.)
Town Manager Joe Martin (r) at the Town Council’s reorganization ceremony July 2. He is the object of a criminal complaint filed by Council member Michael Nochimson (l.)

The Verona Town Council will vote Monday on renewing the contract of Joseph A. Martin, Verona’s town manager since 2004.

Martin’s original contract was extended in May 2007 and should have lasted through August 2010. But in July 2009, with the prospect of a state cap on town government salaries (never enacted), another three years were tacked onto the contract. That last agreement expires on August 31 of this year. The posted agenda for the Monday, July 22, meeting includes a resolution that, if approved, will extend Martin’s contract until Aug. 31, 2016.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting does not include either the text of the resolution or the new contract terms. (The Council met in private session this past Wednesday to review Martin’s performance as town manager.) But the contract is very probably going to be extended because a state statute on town managers seems to preclude the Council from doing anything else. More about that in a minute.

During his time in Verona, Martin has benefited from contracts that seem generous in light of the recession, but they reflect, in part, the fact that Martin was already seasoned public servant when he came to Verona. His experience with reformist government efforts in Essex County was a large factor in his initial hiring in Verona as a consultant. In fact, the initial contract allowed Martin to continue to consult elsewhere while working full-time in Verona.

Martin’s 2007 contract gave him health benefits and a pension, 15 sick days and 27 days of vacation a year. The 2007-2010 contract granted him wage increases of between 4% and 5%; the rate of inflation in the U.S. was 4.1% in 2007, before plummeting to just 0.1% in 2008 after the recession hit.  The 2009 contract extension modified those raises to 3.5% to 5%. In a nod to the tax protest movement in 2011, Martin voluntarily gave up the raises for the remainder of his contract. According to a review by Paula Brown of the Verona Observer, Martin’s salary is now $169,224. The median household income in Verona was $93,839 in 2010. In addition to salary and benefits, Martin has also been receiving a $600 monthly car allowance.

So what now? Thanks to state statute 40:82-3, the contract’s renewal is pretty much a lock. The statute says in part that:

“The municipal manager shall hold office as long as he shall perform the duties of his office to the satisfaction of the municipal council. During the first 3 consecutive calendar years of his employment he may be removed for or without cause and after said 3-year period of employment he may be removed only for cause, after hearing, by a resolution signed by one more than a majority of all the members of the municipal council setting forth the reasons for such removal.”

Martin is currently the object of a criminal complaint, filed by Town Council member Michael Nochimson on July 17 after Martin allegedly threatened him in a late-night phone call. The complaint alleges that Martin placed the call “while under the influence of some substance”.

The Town Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council’s chamber on the second floor of Town Hall. It is open to the public.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

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