Power Grab Ordinance By Mayor – Guest Blog Post By Mary Burgwinkle

March 3, 2019

To: City Council

From: Mary Burgwinkle

Re: Is Proposed Ordinance just a Power Grab by Mayor?

Dear City Council:

Power Grab with Faulty Rationale?

The proposed Ordinance that you will consider on 3/4/2019, amending Municipal Code section 11:12-2 on layoffs, will cut the City Council out of the process of designating the job classifications for layoffs and will give the Mayor sole responsibility for the decision. This sounds to me like a power grab on the part of the Mayor.

Under the current ordinance (See sections 11:12-1 and 12-2 at the bottom of this letter), the Council designates the job classifications or classifications for required reductions, in consultation with the Mayor. The proposed Ordinance would have us believe that only the Council is responsible, when the ordinance provides that they should do this in consultation with the Mayor.

The proposed Ordinance also claims that this change will better align that provision of the Municipal Code and the Charter regarding appointment and removal of employees. I disagree.

The Charter does not give unfettered responsibility to the Mayor (see charter sections 3.4 and 3.5 at the bottom of this letter.) Charter section 3.5 provides “The mayor shall appoint and remove officers and employees as authorized by the charter or the administrative code; and shall, with advice and consent of council, make all appointments for which no other provision is made by or pursuant to the charter.” In this case, it appears that the administrative code authorizes Council to make this decision in consultation with the Mayor, and the charter in no way indicates that the Mayor must make every appointment or layoff decision.

In my opinion, there is no reason to amend section 11:12-2, unless there is a very good explanation for doing it that I have not heard.

What is the Mayor’s Problem with Civil Service?

The Mayor appears to have issues with Civil Service, in my opinion. This summer he added jobs to the charter with no notice or approval from anyone. That seemed to me to be a blatant attempt to work around Civil Service, although he claimed otherwise.

If he has such issues, he should deal with them with the gravity that the City took when it first adopted Civil Service. From Municipal Code section 11:1-1, we can learn that the state legislature enacted Civil Service and that the Council adopted it after the voters of Plainfield voted in favor of it. Thereafter, the Council declared that the Civil Service law and rules would be the framework for employment in the city government (See section 11:2-4, entitled Declaration of Policy).

If the Mayor and administration think that they need to make dramatic changes to Civil Service in Plainfield, perhaps there should be a referendum of the voters, followed by the appropriate action of Council after that. In the same way that POTUS should go to Congress and negotiate for “border security” or other funding rather than relying on bogus emergencies, the Mayor should live with Civil Service or go to the Council and voters to resolve it correctly. He does not need anymore absolute power.

Suggestions for saving money other than layoffs

I am jumping to the conclusion that if the Mayor is seeking to control layoffs, he is contemplating them to save money. I hope that is not the the case, but if it is, here are a few suggestions to save money.

  1. There are too many cabinet members and others (outside Public Safety and DPW) who are driving city vehicles, to the point that we apparently need a fleet manager. How much does that cost? Do those people pay for gas and insurance? Everyone should drive their own car and put in reimbursement requests for mileage travelled on city business.
  2. How many people travelled on the recent “Walk to Washington” at the city’s expense? Do they have to report to anyone what they did, who they met, what good it did for Plainfield?
  3. How many people went to the League of Municipalities meeting at the city’s expense? Do they report to anyone what they did? Why can’t people drive down for a day?
  4. Has there been a freeze on hiring consultants or anyone else, for that matter?
  5. The United States Conference of Mayors is holding its conference this year in Hawaii. No one should attend, in my opinion. If the Mayor feels that he needs to attend, and does not want to go by himself, he should bring a family member and pay for that person’s air fare, meals and entertainment.
  6. How much did it cost for a heated tent in January, costumes, food, etc. for the January 4 event at City Hall? It is good to celebrate milestones; however, it is 2019 all year and thought should be given to planning the celebrations in better weather and on a very tight budget.

Thank you, it is up to you, Council, whether this ordinance passes and how much the city ultimately spends each year.

Mary Burgwinkle

1785 Sleepy Hollow Lane


Charter Sections

3.4 Mayor; general duties.

The mayor shall enforce the charter and ordinances of the city and all general laws applicable thereto. He shall annually report to the council and the public on the work of the previous year and on the condition and requirements of the city government and shall from time to time make such recommendations for action by the council as he may deem in the public interest. He shall supervise the departments of the city government and shall require each department to make an annual and such other reports of its work as he may deem desirable. The mayor shall make available to any council member, upon request, any departmental report, official record or document.

3.5 Appointments and removals.

(a)The mayor shall appoint and remove officers and employees as authorized by the charter or administrative code; and shall, with the advice and consent of the council, make all appointments for which no other provision is made by or pursuant to the charter.

(b)The mayor may remove a department head, the business administrator, or corporation counsel, whenever, in his or her discretion, the public interest so requires; and any such removal shall take effect 10 days after the mayor files notice of removal with the city clerk unless prior thereto the council shall at a regular or special meeting disapprove of such removal by resolution adopted by the affirmative vote of 2/3 of the entire membership. In the event of such resolution of disapproval, the affected office shall be restored to his or her office without loss of pay.


Sec. 11:12-1. Types of separation.

Classified employees who have acquired permanent employment status, as provided in Section 11:5-6, may be temporarily suspended from the City’s employ by layoff or suspension, or permanently separated by resignation or dismissal, subject at all times to the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Department of the State of New Jersey.

(R.O. 1957, 5:13-1, adopted Dec. 1, 1969)

Sec. 11:12-2. Layoff.

(a)     Whenever there is a lack of work or a lack of funds requiring a reduction in the number of employees in a Department of the City government, the required reductions shall be made in such job classifications or classifications as the Council may designate in consultation with the Mayor.

(b)     As determined by the Appointing Authority, employees shall be laid off in the inverse order of their length of service within each affected job class in a particular Department. All provisional employees shall be laid off before probationary employees, and all probationary employees shall be laid off before any permanent employee. Permanent employees including those on probationary status so affected shall be given a minimum of forty-five (45) days’ notice. Provisional employees so affected shall be given a minimum of two (2) weeks notice or two (2) weeks pay in lieu thereof.

(R.O. 1957, 5:13-2, adopted Dec. 1, 1969)

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