Vernon council rescinds mayor's raise

Petitioners to repeal ordinance object, prefer item goes to vote in November


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The Vernon Township Council voted on Monday night to repeal the ordinance granting Mayor Victor Marotta a 133 percent pay raise from $30,000 to $40,000.

The council repealed the ordinance by a 3-2 vote with council members Dan Kadish and Jean Murphy, who also voted against the ordinance that gave the mayor his pay raise on Jan. 27.

Kadish said he felt there was "some weaknesses" in rescinding the ordinance to raise the mayor's salary now and was hoping the question did go before a judge because it would have taken all the controversy away from the subject, and perhaps there should have been a charter committee to figure out the details of the new government when the system was changed from committee.

"I think, in this particular case, we're too late," Kadish said. "I don't know what the right answer is. I don't know whether we can or can't rescind it. I think we're well beyond the benchmark."

Murphy said since the council sets the mayor's salary and if it does want him to have the raise to $70,000, then the petition should go to the Nov. 4 ballot.

"If it goes to election in November and Mayor Marotta gets his raise, so be it," she said.

The council tried to give Marotta a pay raise in 2012, coupling it with a salary ordinance that also listed pay ranges for nearly three dozen other positions throughout the township. A committee of petitioners petitioned the repeal of that ordinance, which township attorney Kevin Kelly advised the council not to do, and 87 percent of Vernon voters overturned the ordinance during the November election, canceling the mayor's raise and the pay ranges established for the other positions in the ordinance.

Steven Vichiconti read a letter signed by the committee using the 2012 situation as a precedent for sending the 2014 ordinance straight to a vote.

According to the letter, the council had 20 days since the petition was certified on Feb. 28 to repeal the ordinance and the council had not done so. The committee also objected to the ordinance's language, which they said omitted the word "immediately" from their demand to rescind the ordinance. The committee objected because the council failed to act within 20 days and also cited Kelly's previous advice, which cited previous case law, the council never had the option to rescind the 2012 ordinance.

When asked by township resident Sandy Ooms why the change in advice, Kelly said this case was different as the 2012 ordinance involved at least 35 people, while the 2014 ordinance only affects Marotta, who asked the raise be rescinded at the March 24 meeting.

"Those people [in 2012] wanted those raises and they wanted to pursue the ordinance and everybody wanted to go to a vote," Kelly said. "In this case, the people wanted an ordinance repealed — all those people who signed the petition included a request. The mayor said he requested it be repealed. In the world I live in, when parties in dispute agree they're not in dispute anymore, the case is over. I am not in position to tell these people that I work for that they have to do anything else because it's over."

Council president Brian Lynch said the petition submitted said nothing about putting the issue on the November ballot, and he said if supporters of the mayor's raise are adamant about him getting it, they can submit a petition to the council, as well.

But the previous supporters of his raise simply asked for the issue to end as it has divided the town and have called the petitioners' action a vendetta against Marotta.

"This issue has divided the community," Vernon Township Historical Society President Jessie Paladini said. "I say, it's enough. They won. Put it to rest. Let the town heal from this. I suggested you rescind this back in February but I'm here tonight to say, please put it to rest. Don't further divide the town until November ... We've had spite vs. right long enough."

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