Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mayor's firing of Bibi Taylor overturned in a night of drama

Bibi Taylor (with tan scarf) and her husband amid well-wishers.

High drama was the order of the evening at Plainfield's City Council meeting Monday night.

When the Council finally got to the matter on most peoples' minds -- Mayor Robinson-Briggs' termination of City Administrator Bibi Taylor -- it was approaching midnight. Without discussion, the Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to 'disapprove' (the technical term according to the city charter) the termination, making the mayor's action null and void, thus giving Plainfielders, and Bibi, an early Christmas present.

Bibi, who is due in just a few days, sat with her husband in the midst of the throng of well-wishers and smiled as the room broke into applause upon the completion of the unanimous roll call vote.

But that was not the only matter on which Robinson-Briggs was turned back last night.

Part of crowd that still packed Council chambers at 11:45 PM.
The council chambers were packed at 8:00 PM. At 8:18, the Council adjourned to executive session elsewhere in the building, leaving the courtroom to the audience (a nice gesture, considering how bitterly cold it was outside).

Council President Annie McWilliams had said it would be for 45 minutes to an hour, but it turned out to take almost two hours. City Administrator Bibi Taylor, accompanied by her husband, was present for the discussion of her case in camera (she HAD been given her Rice notice on Friday).

Though Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was not present in the room before the executive session, she did come in (accompanied by a bodyguard whom I am told was on street duty, but was instead accompanying the mayor) at 10:20 PM, as the Council was resuming the public meeting. The implication was that she had been at the closed session.

After passing eight ordinances on second reading, the meeting turned to the public comment portion. Twenty-eight people got up to speak, mainly on either the Bibi Taylor matter or the Recreation Division budget.

All of those who spoke on behalf of Ms. Taylor cited her professionalism, her attention to detail, her mastery of vast quantities of information and data, and her skill in advocating for and defending the proposals of the very mayor who tried to fire her, as well as the speed with which she gets back to people and her straight-arrow attitude toward dissembling.

Sadly, those who spoke up for Parks and Recreation Superintendent Dave Wynn had been misinformed (by whom I wonder?) about the budget and the Council's role. After a number of speakers had spoken in quite strong language and one in particular threatened the Council with retaliation at the polls, Council President McWilliams reminded all that the Council's only responsibility is to strike the budget and allocate funding, adding that how the funds are then spent is up to the Administration.

(Let it be said that the Robinson-Briggs administration has had no problem finding ways to circumvent what any reasonable person might expect is the way monies should be spent at City Hall.)

Assemblyman Jerry Green, who was not present last night, has found the whole imbroglio embarrassing to the City, and his call for Robinson-Briggs to rescind the firing may have played a role in solidifying the Council's unanimity in overturning the dismissal.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs tries to make herself heard over hubbub
after the Council unanimously overturns Taylor's dismissal.
With regard to running the city while Bibi is on maternity leave, the best that can be said is that the mayor's bench is not very deep. Though tapping Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson as acting city administrator in Taylor's absence is perhaps her best option, Mayor Robinson-Briggs has yet to articulate a full plan for the time Taylor will be out. (For a full discussion of that portion of the meeting, see Bernice at Plaintalker II here.)

Oh yes, the OTHER MATTER on which Mayor Robinson-Briggs was turned back last night? Unanimous passage of Resolution 427-10 overrides the mayor's veto of ordinance MC 2010-28, adopted on November 22 and setting a lower bid threshold than the state's. With this unanimous override of her veto the ordinance will now go into effect.

But of one thing you can be sure: the drama is not over. There will be ample time to bash, thrash and rehash the Council's budget amendments -- including to the Recreation Division -- at next Monday night's budget hearing, where the public gets to comment again before its final adoption.

Life in Plainfield is anything but dull.

Monday | December 27
7:30 PM
City Hall Library
515 Watchung Avenue

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to why the council was out for 2 hours when they obviously had enough votes to overturn the firing. What was the counter argument? Why was she fired in the first place? Dan, use your awesome powers of persuasion to get your council CI's to come up with some answers!

Anonymous said...

There's nothing BUT freakin' drama in Plainfield, and it's really, really tiring.

Bob said...

I'm glad we have a City Council that has some guts, and those who usually rubber stamp what Sharon wants realize that she is the albatross around their neck. Sharon really needs to go, then maybe we won't have so much drama and Plainfield will improve.

Anonymous said...

Just think of how boing life would be without Sharon. I would have to buy some comic books to get my daily laughs

Anonymous said...

I am very proud to be a citizen of Plainfield. The courtroom was packed with people who had opinions and cared enough to stay 2 hours to make sure they were heard.

We are an amazing people in an even more amazing town.

Alan Goldstein said...

A few months ago I had a phone conversation with Ms. Taylor and regretted that as an able administrator she had so many obstacles to overcome and it would be great if she could be administering a city that was growing and vibrant, happy and secure. A city that did the right thing for all the people in need, whether it was a need for public assistance or a need for a less cumbersome and more efficient city government that looked to results rather than process. But let's face it, Bibi has very capably managed a time of obstruction, controversy, ineptitude, and lack of progress on a host of issues.

She's been doing the dancing and playing the tune, but the song is written by a bunch of people who sadly number among them very few who are working from the heart and mind and free of an agenda for power or profit. Too many are gaming things, and the result is we are all being gamed.

My wish for the New Year is that Bibi doesn't conduct this cacaphony for another twelve months. That is to say, we need to change the score. The only points right now are in political battles. Zippo for the city and its residents. City employees meanwhile are an endangered species. Bibi will get us there very well if that's what we want. Whether it's up or down.

Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

While I am certainly pleased with last night's vote unanimously overturning the mayor's move, I do worry that Jerry's position made the difference for one or more councilors. As a citizen and taxpayer I find it scary that some on the City Council do the right thing only if Jerry instructs them to. Picky picky, I guess.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people contacted their council members urging them to reinstate Ms. Taylor. At least one was still undecided when I spoke to him and that was after Jerry Green spoke out. I'm glad they listened to their constituents!

Anonymous said...

I am so very proud of Councilwoman soon to be Freeholder Linda Carter. I campaigned, supported and voted for Ms. Carter -yet I wasn't sure if she would show up or abstain.

I sincerely hope Slimey Green had nothing to do with her decision to keep Ms. Taylor employed. But she came through just as I had hoped she would.

Thank you Linda Carter! and Congratulations Linda!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:57AM -

". . . still undecided when I spoke to HIM . . . " Obviously, most definitely, UNsurprisingly . . . Mr. REID!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:57 am: Wrong guess. Better luck next time.