Mayor Wants Morris To Resign Committee Chairmanships
Friday, September 28, 2012 • 12:01pm
PATERSON, NJ – Mayor Jeffrey Jones has called for Councilman Kenneth Morris to step down from his positions as chairman of the council’s finance and community development committee
Jones said Morris’ criticism of Community Development Director Lanisha Makle, his comments about the aborted economic development trip to China and his gloomy view of the city’s budget were “scare tactics” hurting Paterson’s chances at revitalization.
Moreover, Jones argued that Morris’ attacks on his administration were designed to bolster the development plans of Morris’ employer, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center.
“By design, some folks would like to see our economic development vision fail,’’ Jones said in an interview on Thursday. “So they are crying wolf. They want CD (Community Development) to support certain ends for their employer.’’
Morris chuckled when asked for a reaction to Jones’ call for him to relinquish his committee chairmanships.
“It’s unfortunate he’s focused his energy on a petty squabble between him and me instead of focusing his energy on the business of the city,’’ Morris said. “Any concerns I’ve raised about Community Development and the budget have been totally based on facts.’’
Morris said St. Joseph’s is Paterson’s largest employer and has invested millions of dollars in rebuilding its neighborhood. “You would think the mayor would be supportive of that,’’ said Morris, who works as government relations director at the hospital. The councilman also said he has never put the interests of the hospital ahead of those of Paterson taxpayers.
Jones and Morris have been in an almost constant state of battle for the past two years. Among the issues that pitted them against each other were the city’s 2011 budget crisis, its overtime scandal, and a council attempt to reduce salaries of the mayor and several of his Cabinet members. In all those cases, Morris was joined by a majority of the City Council in his battles with the administration.
Earlier this year, Jones accused Morris of having a conflict of interests when he arranged a council finance committee meeting with representatives of companies involved in a possible sale of St. Joseph's to discuss tax incentives. The hospital deal fell through during the summer.
Jones said Morris tried to undermine Makle ever since she has been in the job. The director, Jones said, has not received the credit she deserves for fixing problems in the department left by the previous administration.
Morris agreed that he has opposed Makle’s appointment right from the beginning. But he said his opposition stemmed from her lack of qualifications and not from anything personal. Moreover, Morris argued that Makle’s performance, which has resulted in several lawsuits filed against her by employees, has borne out the validity of his opposition.
Jones was particularly upset about Morris’ comment about the proposed economic development trip to China. Last month, the councilman had said in a PatersonPress.com story about the trip that the mayor ought to focus his economic development work locally.
The trip never happened, partly because city business leaders and government officials could not raise the money to pay for it. Jones insisted that Morris was cool to the idea because it would not benefit St. Joseph’s development plans.
“All of a sudden, it becomes a bad thing,’’ the mayor said. “How would you know unless you try?’’