Council tables public safety director appointment

| 26 Apr 2012 | 01:28

WEST MILFORD — And still there is no director of Public Safety.

After months of debate, oftentimes with the appearance that all members of the council agree that the current police chief should be named the township's director of public safety, the council has tabled the appointment of police Chief Gene Chiosie for the position.

In a 4-2 vote, the council decided to table the appointment and have qualifications and duties for the position included before naming Mayor Bettina Bieri's nominee to the position. They gave a tentative list of qualifications and duties to the township attorney, Fred Semrau.

Last month, the council approved an amendment to the township code that resolved a conflict. The code stated that the director of Public Safety also serves as the chief of police. Then, Section 15:49I abolished the position of director of Public Safety altogether. The amendment they approved by a 5-1 margin in March, rectified that conflict by reestablishing the position of director of Public Safety.

Councilman Joseph Smolinski was the lone no vote for that amendment. He said the new amendment could open the way for an inexperienced civilian, a political paid appointment to be the director of Public Safety. He called that possibility "very concerning" and suggested qualifications and duties be outlined.

Bieri argued that was unlikely to happen since it would take the mayor to nominate and four councilmembers to agree to do it.

Bieri and Semrau said the amendment corrects an oversight from 2004 when the township changed its form of government. The two conflicting sections remained in the code; this amendment resolved that. Bieri appointed Chiosie chief of police late last year but did not recommend him for director of Public Safety because, she said, she read the code and noticed the discrepancy. Chief of police is the mayor's appointment. Director of Public Safety is her nomination with advice and consent of the council

The chief of police is a civil service position. The director of Public Safety is not but would oversee all public safety departments including the police department. The original language in the code stated that the director of Public Safety must also be the chief of police; it was deemed illegal by labor council and the amendment corrected that.

Smolinski noted last month that the council just restructured the police department. He looked at the amendment as a mistake.

"We just restructured the police department now are destructing that department," said Smolinski.

All councilmembers, including Smolinski, have said they would appoint Chiosie to the position, noting his qualifications as chief of police.

They expect to discuss the director of Public Safety appointment again at the May 2 meeting.