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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Of things clerk-ish

Clerk "AJ" Jalloh and then-Freeholder (now Assemblywoman)
Linda Carter at the 2016
National Night Out.

It isn't often that the Municipal Clerk gets to take a turn in the spotlight, but in recent days Planfield's own "AJ" Jalloh has had two star turns.

First, over the weekend, TAPinto's Jenn Popper reported that Assemblywoman Linda Carter had appointed Clerk Jalloh as her Chief of Staff, effective immediately (see story here).

Within hours, Plainfield Today reader AG sent me an email alerting me to the fact that Clerk Jalloh was also the Municipal Clerk of the Borough of Riverdale. (It seems he also emailed others at the same time.)

As I had been unaware of this second clerkship, I sent an email to both Clerk Jalloh and Mayor Mapp asking about this second job and whether the mayor had approved it.

Mayor Mapp declined to answer my questions, saying it was his "longstanding policy not to comment on personnel matters."

Clerk Jalloh sent me the following email (which he has given me permission to reprint) --

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to respond!

Yes, I do serve as the part-time Clerk in the Borough of Riverdale. A borough with less than 5,000 located in Morris County.

They require my attendance at Council Meetings which are on Wednesday’s and do not conflict with Plainfield Council Meetings.

It is very common for statutory employees to use their certification/licenses in multiple municipalities. There are some Clerks, CFO’s Collectors, Assessors, Health officers, building inspectors, Attorney’s etc who serve in as many as ten or more towns... usually to help those towns keep overhead cost down, or as a shared service — which as you may know is actually encouraged by this state. In fact, our City has other statutory/licensed employees who are employed with other government agencies.

It is also not uncommon for appointed public officials to serve in elected capacities as well. In theory, I could serve as City Clerk and as member of the State Legislature and be elected Senate President! (Something I would never want to do).

In this age of technology, I feel that you especially can appreciate that employees in both private and public sectors are always expected to be on. There’s no such thing as a 9-5 anymore. With Smart phones, computers, tablets, emails, virtual desktops, cloud computing etc. the expectations for organizations are higher than ever.  I am indeed always on, and always responsive. I always get the job done, even if I have to come in on a sick day at 2am.

During my paternity leave I spent a great deal of hours working on updating the new charter/code revisions, completing meeting minutes, completing the council agenda, updating appointments for boards and commissions and the like.  That’s what I think I should be judged on, my quality of work.

On a personal note, my full time job with the City of Plainfield is my number 1 priority. I’ve indicated to the Mayor, Council and Assemblywoman that if things start to fall through the cracks or if things become too much to handle, I will adjust accordingly.  As a public employee for over 15 years with a particular skill set with the workings of state and local government and legislation, I am looking forward to serving as a liaison for the City and to the Assemblywoman who will be fighting down in Trenton for Plainfield’s best interest.  

With that said, YES, approval is needed to accept outside employment, and was granted by the City Administrator, per our City Code.

In a follow up phone conversation with Clerk Jalloh, I learned several more things that clarified the situation and made it somewhat amusing.

The idea came from a workshop several years ago at the NJ League of Municipalities convention, where the idea of hiring certain certified officials on a part-time basis was floated as a way of economizing.

Clerk Jalloh told me that he had been hired by the Borough of Riverdale on a part-time basis, replacing a full-time clerk who was making a six-figure salary. AJ's salary? $15,000 per year. (By the way, that is also his salary with Asw Carter.)

His responsibilities include attending their Council meetings (which do not conflict with Plainfield's) and handling other clerk-related matters by email and phone.

It is worth noting that Riverdale is a small (under 5,000), totally Republican borough -- and they hired a Democratic clerk!

Not only that, when the mayor who hired Clerk Jalloh was succeeded by a different mayor, the new mayor indicated he was keeping Jalloh on as clerk as "the best thing that has happened to us". All about dollars and sense, I would say.

AJ's second turn in the spotlight came at Tuesday night's Council agenda session, where the Council and the Corporation Counsel got into a panty-tangling discussion of the title, role, appointment and duties of the clerk -- all because of the proposed language in the new charter and code.

A good deal of the confusion came from using the word "clerk" for two different functions. And to compound things, the introduction of the idea of the Council supervising the clerk -- which seemed to get their attention (elected officials always like the idea of getting to "supervise" someone).

Corporation Counsel Dave Minchello replied to Councilor Storch's questions that he was aware of the language issues.

Perhaps it would be easier to refer to the State on the duties of Municipal Clerks (NJSA 40A:9-133) -- see text here --

e.The municipal clerk shall:

(1) act as secretary of the municipal corporation and custodian of the municipal seal and of all minutes, books, deeds, bonds, contracts, and archival records of the municipal corporation. The governing body may, however, provide by ordinance that any other specific officer shall have custody of any specific other class of record;

(2) act as secretary to the governing body, prepare meeting agendas at the discretion of the governing body, be present at all meetings of the governing body, keep a journal of the proceedings of every meeting, retain the original copies of all ordinances and resolutions, and record the minutes of every meeting;

(3) serve as the chief administrative officer in all elections held in the municipality, subject to the requirements of Title 19 of the Revised Statutes;

(4) serve as chief registrar of voters in the municipality, subject to the requirements of Title 19 of the Revised Statues;

(5) serve as the administrative officer responsible for the acceptance of applications for licenses and permits and the issuance of licenses and permits, except where statute or municipal ordinance has delegated that responsibility to some other municipal officer;

(6) serve as coordinator and records manager responsible for implementing local archives and records retention programs as mandated pursuant to Title 47 of the Revised Statutes;

(7) perform such other duties as are now or hereafter imposed by statute, regulation or by municipal ordinance or regulation.
Seems to me the confusion arose in using the word "clerk" is relation to both the position of Municipal Clerk and in relation to the Council.

The NJ statutes avoid confusion by distinguishing the clerk's duties in relation to the Council as being the SECRETARY to the governing body (section 2 above) -- note the Statute does not use the word "clerk" here -- being responsible for working with the governing body on the agenda(s), keeping a journal of the proceedings of every meeting as well as its minutes, and complete and accurate copies of all ordinances and resolutions.

THAT should clear up a lot of confusion.

And kudos to our Clerk "AJ" Jalloh for managing what must sometimes be an exasperating job.

An aside: In our conversation, AJ could not resist pointing out to me the irony of my having chided his office for a couple of mistakes in the agenda -- and then my having to post a correction to my blog post over originally citing the wrong day for next week's Council session. It pays to stay humble.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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