14 township officials head to Atlantic City on the public's dime

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:02

    WEST MILFORD —Is the township is using taxpayers’ money with appropriate responsibility? West Milford is sending 14 people to the annual League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City which takes place over four days starting Nov. 15. The municipalities conference is a gathering of all 566 of New Jersey’s towns, boroughs and cities. Alongside this will be the opportunity for vendors to try and sell their latest wares to the participants with everything from concrete to communication systems on display. The cost of sending 14 of West Milford’s administration is $4460. Those going will stay in the gambling paradise for at least two nights. Among them is Mayor Joseph DiDonato, three town council members, Police Chief Paul Costello, seven department heads, the township administrator and town clerk. A matter of contention has arisen on the attendance of two individuals whose role in the municipality is soon to end. Town Clerk Kevin Byrnes is one of those. Byrnes will retire at the end of this year but stopped working as of September 30 due to accrued vacation leave. Township Administrator Rich Kunze defends sending Byrnes to the conference saying “He [Byrnes] is still officially the township clerk until the end of the year and as such can still attend seminars and bring back information on matters concerning the municipality and clerk’s office. Given the fact that he is on leave anyway, sending him will have less of an impact on the operations of the clerk’s office than sending another person from that office.” Councilman Paul Bailey will also attend even though he will step down from his position on the township council on Dec. 31. Of particular interest to Bailey is the development of tourism in West Milford and he is confident that both the conference and the recent decision by the township council to create a tourism commission will be enhanced by his presence at the gathering. Bailey said “It important for us to continue the dialogues I have initiated with the state regarding tourism development and this is an opportunity to build our image in the eyes of the people who can most help us in this regard.” Although Bailey will no longer serve on the council from the start of next year he does see a future for himself with the tourism commission which further justifies his role at the conference. Bailey said “The mayor will appoint a Commissioner of Tourism. I expect that I will be that commissioner and will serve in that capacity for the next three years. There is a real and compelling rationale for me being there.” Far more skeptical of the attendance of the outgoing clerk and council member is fellow councilor Bob Nolan, “I raised the issue of Bailey and Byrnes attending at taxpayer expense, and voted against payment. One is retiring six weeks after the convention, and the other one is going off the council Dec. 31. As far as I am concerned paying for these two gentlemen to attend is a waste of taxpayer money. I have not yet decided if I will attend, but if I do it will be at my expense, not at the taxpayers’.” Nolan also voiced his intent to block Bailey’s hope of becoming the town’s tourist chief saying “I would also be against voting for Bailey as tourism commissioner based on his opposition to the weed harvest this past year.”