Petition to halt Marotta's raise submitted

| 19 Feb 2014 | 10:53

    VERNON — Petitions against the recently passed salary ordinance that granted Mayor Victor Marotta a 133 percent raise from $30,000 to $70,000 were recently submitted to the township clerk on Friday, Feb. 14, three days before the ordinance was to go into effect.

    More than 1,000 signatures were gathered, well above the 792 signatures — 5 percent of the township's registered voters — required to appeal the Township Council to repeal the ordinance or to place it on the ballot in November.

    Until a decision is made, Marotta's salary will be frozen at $30,000.

    The ordinance was passed during the Township Council meeting on Jan. 27 with a 3-2 vote. Council President Brian Lynch and councilmen Patrick Rizzuto and Dick Wetzel were in favor with Councilman Dan Kadish and Councilwoman Jean Murphy voting no.

    It was the second time Marotta has requested a raise, the first being in 2012 where he asked for a raise to $50,000. Petitions were filed to overturn that raise and it was put up to a referendum vote in November 2012 where it was overturned by 87 percent of the voters, bringing Marotta back down to an annual salary of $30,000.

    The 2014 ordinance received large amounts of both praise and criticism.

    Many residents of Vernon Township urged the council to include the matter in the November ballot, allowing the people to choose, like they ultimately did in 2012. Supporters of this option said they desired a democratic approach where the constituents can participate in the deicision of the mayor's salary.

    Resident Mary Ellen Vichiconti helped to circulate a petition to overturn the decision.

    “Under the Faulkner Act form of government, people have the right to petition an ordinance,” she said. “It’s our right as citizens to have a voice, and this is why I’m involved.”

    Petitioners were stationed at the A&P and other locations around town to gather signatures. Most of the signatures were collected in one weekend. The team verified the signatures by ensuring that each unique name did, in fact, appear on Vernon’s list of registered voters.

    Vichiconti said some declined to sign, citing a “fear of repercussions.” She said was saddened by a political environment that evokes a fear of retribution in the citizens.

    Vichiconti said she speaks on behalf of the petitioners when she said that the results mark a “victory for Vernon voters.”

    If the signatures are validated by the township clerk, the voters will have the chance, like they did in 2012, to choose to overturn this ordinance during the general election.