The Vernon Township Council on September 12 received its report on the mistaken sale of two township properties, determining that Business Administrator Charles Voelker failed to adequately supervise, manage and conduct the municipal land sale, and the council expressed “no confidence” in Voelker.
The township mistakenly sold properties at 6 Mondamin Road and 16 Shomokin Road without realizing the Mondamin Road property had one of Vernon’s five repeaters that are used to extend the range and quality of the township’s communications.
The property at 6 Mondamin Road was sold for $8,630 and 16 Shomokin Road sold for $875, for a combined $9,505 to Jay and Michelle Thienel, according to data listed in the Sussex County Parcel Doc Viewer.
The township passed an ordinance on August 8 that authorized the buyback for $25,000, which returned what the Thienels paid for the two properties plus additional expenses, which the township didn’t break down.
The resolution indicates Voelker received an email on October 20, 2021, informing him of the communication equipment on the Mondamin Road property and the council’s statement said Voelker “chose not to act” on opportunities to prevent the sale of the Mondamin property.
The council believed there is cause for Voelker to be removed but recognizing the mayor’s authority left it to Mayor Howard Burrell to terminate him.
He declined to do so, and instead suspended Voelker’s pay for 32 days. Burrell also told the council Voelker will accept and not challenge the mayor’s discipline.
Voelker was hired in 2016 at an annual salary of $85,000, with annual raises set at the discretion of the mayor.
“While the Township Council believes that the mayor’s response is inadequate, it will not seek to impose its will on the mayor, nor will it inject itself into this personnel matter,” the resolution stated. “The Township Council fully and completely places the responsibility and ownership on the mayor.”
Burrell said at the meeting that the council’s resolution came as a surprise to him, and it will have no impact “on the things that we have already done to collect the error, including having already regained full possession of the property sold in error.”
He said the council didn’t take action to remove Voelker because its report didn’t give them legal cause to do so.
“In the case of the business administrator, action by the council to take his job and livelihood, to destroy his professional and personal reputation, simply because of a one-time administrative error would be the equivalent of sending a person to prison for life for a first-time traffic ticket,” Burrell said.