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Woodbridge Library, Another Tax Sinkhole?

Libraries, a place of learning or a place for political appointees?

So many people, at least some of the older generation, grew up using a library and the services and knowledge of librarians.

Today, unfortunately, librarians have all but disappeared from schools (see:  http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/06/26/are-school-librarians-expendable) and the children and the teachers in those schools will be all the worse for that fact.  But BOE's, at least in Woodbridge, can find money, even from self-serving, self-aggrandizing elected municipal official who dole out municipal tax dollars to curry favor with specific voting blocks, for lighting, turf and other less important school property enhancements.

Few residents in Woodbridge Township may realize their public library is all but a totally autonomous entity in a township that I joking refer to as MacBelieve Land!

The library has its own Board of Directors, who are appointed by John McCormac and seconded by his town council.  Together, they hire librarians, control which librarians are assigned to which libraries, who gets paid what, and how municipal tax dollars are spent.  Of course, all this is done under the watchful eye of the mayor, and without nepotism or crony-ism by all concerned.  Just like the Woodbridge BOE.

Okay, so much for the MacBelieve!  Now look at the information one concern citizen wants the public to know:

Start:

This info is from 2011 and may not be precise, but it's pretty close. Cecile McGrath has a high school diploma and she makes more than most of the professional librarians with Master’s Degrees.  Her Civil Service title is "Principal Account Clerk" and she is actually just the library Bookkeeper.  

 

Cecil McGrath’s salary in 2011: $93,660 http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees12/details.php?recordID=284506

John McCormac’s salary in 2011: $81,716  http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees12/details.php?recordID=284239

Marianne Horta's salary in 2011:  $78,816

http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees12/details.php?recordID=284123

 

 

The Library Board meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm in the Book Examination Center on the 3rd floor of the Main Library, except for Aug and Dec when there are no meetings:

Meeting dates for 2013 are as follows:

January 17, 2013

February 21, 2013

March 21, 2013

April 18, 2013

May 16, 2013

June 20, 2013

Library Board of Trustees

 Name

Appointed

Expiration

Bob Bonsignore

1/01/12

12/31/16

Edward R. Mullen

1/01/12

12/31/12

Frederick W. Silbon, Jr. (Secretary)

1/05/99

12/31/13

Barbara Ciocci

1/04/00

12/31/14

Mary M. Mayerowitz “Peggy” (President)

1/04/00

12/31/14

Isha Vyas

1/01/01

12/31/14

Ray Zirpolo

1/11/11

12/31/15

Carol Eberhardt Treasurer
(Supt. Of Schools Alt.)

6/15/05

Indef.

Amanda Truppa  (Mayor’s Alt.)

1/05/10

Indef.

 

 

Kristen Mullen, daughter of Library Trustee, Ed Mullen was just hired as a Library Assistant at the Main Library at the Oct. 18th Board meeting.

 

There is a clause in the original Policy Manual of the Woodbridge Public Library which prohibits the hiring of relatives of Trustees and Administrative Personnel due to ethical concerns.

End

 

Well, it does appear that libraries are still a place of learning, in more ways than one!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pam Chesky November 20, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Tom, let's not classify libraries as a tax sinkhole based on two examples. The two employees you mention are civil servants and their job classifications and salary guides must fall under those guidelines. Ceil has been with the library along time and her salary has probably risen with her years of experience. As for the hint of "nepotism" that you raise, when you live in town and serve on a board of any kind you are bound to have family and friends who want to work in town. Just remember it is only nepotism if the appointee doesn't meet the qualifications of the job! In ending, please don't refer to a library as a tax sinkhole, even if your allegations are partially right, we need the Woodbridge Public Library now more than evere. It is the only link to lreadinf for learning and reading for fun that our school children have! Please don't share the short-sighted ness that Woodbridge BOE ( withnthe exception of (Leidner)) and Central Administration exhibited a few years back!
slyfox1961 November 20, 2012 at 01:00 PM
So what? Who is the mayor, or for that matter any other elected official with power of appointment, going to appoint to various positions, strangers? It is common sense that they will appoint people that they know and trust. Apparantly you are just upset you are not one of them.
stephen mckessy November 20, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I like that MacBelieve thats this mayor for sure
Tom Maras November 20, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Pam, thank you for your response to my blog post. Please note it is not my intention to diminish librarians, libraries or, specifically, the Woodbridge Library system. To the contrary, I believe our community is fortunate to have the excellent library and librarians it has. Having used the Fords and Woodbridge libraries and computers, I have only praised for the system. My commentary was intended to open a dialog about the library system, its value to the community, and to inform the public how the management and Board of the library are selected and/or appointed. To be sure, today's libraries and librarians are not the same as those that existed prior to the advent of the Internet. The librarians in this age of technology must be technology specialist. Perhaps, in the not too distant future libraries as we know them will not longer exist, having been replaced by virtual libraries. But until that happens, our current libraries shall remain a valued asset to our community. Are you familiar with the lawsuit (Doc#AR-2012-563) that was filed, and won, by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 73, Local 2923 against the library? If I can post a link to the court documents, I will in another post.
Tom Maras November 20, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Mac must sleep better knowing you are PHA! There is an old adage: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely! You may chose to feed the beast, I do not!
Brian November 21, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Tom - I have to assume you believe there is some sort of problem. What is your solution? Also, please enlighten us about AR-2012-563.
Tom Maras November 21, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Brian, that remains to be determined. Am hearing there may be concerns that librarians are being subject to autocratic leadership. More to come on that. as to AR-2012-563, the document is too large to post here. However, if you would like a copy, contact me at tmaras333@gmail.com and I will send you the pdf. And not to worry, your e-mail address will remain confidential. That said, my e-mails may have just gotten more interesting. Happy Thanksgiving!
Brian November 21, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Tom - "To be determined" and "more to come on that" are the exact sort of things I figured you'd say. I read a lot of complaints but rarely solutions. It's 2012. Put your PDF on a free file hosting site and post a link to it so everyone can access it.
Library Lover November 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
This is all very disturbing. Libraries are so important! Really hope this is not as serious as it sounds. Hope you can elaborate further on the concerns you mentioned.
Library Lover November 22, 2012 at 05:23 PM
"...it is only nepotism if the appointee doesn't meet the qualifications of the job" ??? Really??? Definition of "Nepotism" - Favoritism granted toward relatives. It is always nepotism when someone is hired based on their family connections. And it is always unethical, as well as a serious ongoing issue for the organization and for the other employees. Just because it has happened before doesn't mean it's right.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Brian, kudos on your insight about what I would or wouldn't do! So, who are you, really, behind your nom de plume? Are you really a male? Are you a member of the Board or related to one, trying to gain a little advanced intel? In any case, your unwillingness to "Man Up" leads me to question your veracity in this matter. That said, I will tell you the Board and its paid Executive Administration should take heed to how they treat staff, all staff! One never knows who is watching and documenting their moves and decrees! Perhaps, we will meet at a future Board meeting! And, if you can, please invite Mr. John E. McCormac. Please RSVP me, if he accepts.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Take heart Library Lover, its all about keeping appointees and their hirers aware they are not immune from public scrutiny ! Read what follows, in multiple sections. STATE OF NEW JERSEY PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS COMMISSION - * In the Matter of the Arbitration * between * * * WOODBRIDGE PUBLIC LIBRARY * * * -and- * * DECISION AND AWARD AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, COUNCIL 73, LOCAL 2923 * Docket No. * AR-2012-563 * (vacations) * * * * Before: Joel M. Weisblatt, Arbitrator Appearances: For the Employer Florio, Perrucci, steinhardt & Fader By: J. Andrew Kinsey, Esquire• For the Union Alice Weisman, Esquire D E C I S I 0 N The Woodbridge Public Library (the "Employer" or the "Library") and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employers, Council 73, Local 2923 (the "Union" or "AFSCME") are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. Consistent with the terms of that contract, and pursuant to the Rules and Regulations of the Public Employment Relations Commission, the undersigned Arbi tr.ator was duly appointed to serve in this matter. An evidentiary hearing was held on August 22, 2012. Both parties were afforded an opportunity to argue orally, present documentary evidence, and examine and cross-examine witnesses. The parties mutually agreed to frame the issue submitted to the Arbitrator for determination as follows:
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Did the Employer improperly deny the vacation requests in the three consolidated grievances in violation of Article 10 and past practice? If so, what shall be the remedy? Both parties have submitted written, post-hearing briefs. Positions of the Parties Position of the Union The Union contends that the Employer violated the collective bargaining agreement and an established past practice when it denied the vacation requests set forth ln the three consolidated grievances, he ein. It asserts that the denials were improper, based upon the contract language and also upon the existence of a binding practice. With respect to the contract, the Union claims that the language is clear and unambiguous. It argues that the terms of the agreement, set forth in Article 10, establish a right to take vacation time subject to only two limitations not relevant to the facts and issues presented in this case. Those limitations relate to more than one employee applying for the same time frame and to vacation applied for after April 1st. The Union insists that the language "contains no limit on the number of consecutive weeks an employee may take his/her vacation." The Union points out that there was uncontroverted testimony that employees had taken more than two consecutive weeks of vacation, even as many as four weeks, over a period of many years.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:00 PM
AFSCME maintains that, should the Arbitrator find any ambiguity in the contract language, there is a factual basis to support an enforceable past practice providing for scheduling vacations in excess of two consecutive weeks. It believes that it has met the burde.n of proving a consistent, long-standing and common practice of requests for and approval of vacations in excess of two consecutive weeks. It notes that there is no evidence of any instance where such a request had been denied over an period of many, many years. This was the custom at the Library. The Union further asserts that the Library Director was quite aware of this existing custom. The Union stresses the fact that the Employer never provided any reason for the denials. It characterizes those denials as frivolous. It argues that the Library Director refused "to enunciate a reasonable Library need for the denials." It also assails the blanket denial of every single request for more than two consecutive weeks. The Union also urges a determination that the Employer violated the contract by requiring requests in excess of two consecutive weeks to be approved by the Library Director rather than by the Branch Manager. It relies upon the fact that this function had always been performed by the Branch Managers. The Union suggests that the contract language provides the supervisors with the .right to make those decisions, based solely upon the reasonable needs of the Library.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:05 PM
The Union concludes that the Employer violated the contract with respect to the denial of the vacation requests grieved herein. It seeks a ruling that the contract has been violated and an order requiring the withdrawal of the August 24, 2011 edict, causing future vacation requests to be submitted only to the immediate supervisors. Finally, it seeks a directive that employee requests for vacations of greater than two consecutive weeks must be granted with approval or denial by the immediate supervisor to be based only upon the reasonable needs of the Library. Position of the Employer The Employer contends that it has not improperly denied the vacation requests at issue herein. It insists that it is the Union that bears the burden of proof in this dispute and that it has failed to meet that burden. The Library asserts that the scheduling of vacations is a "vital management right." The Employer maintains that the Union has not proved that the contract has been breached with respect to the vacation request denials. It notes that the issue presented involves the interpretation of the contract and relies upon the well-established principal that it is the Union that bears the burden of proving such a contract ?iolation. The Library further argues that the contract negotiated by the parties lS clear and unambiguous and it seeks a finding that it has acted in accordance with the plain meaning of the terms of the agreement.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:07 PM
The Library claims that the scheduling of vacations is a management right. It cites the Management Rights clause of the contract and the general proposition that the employer has an unfettered right to control the scheduling of vacations. The Employer insists that the plain meaning of the language used in Article 10 of the contract includes an understanding that employees request vacations and that management approves or denies the requests. The Library asserts that it is "the normal and intended result of contractually negotiated language" to be applied in accordance with plain meaning and that the actions grieved herein were consistent with the plain meaning of Article 10. The Employer points out that the contract "only requires that an explanation be given for a denial." It adds that there is no requirement that the employee or the Union be satisfied with the reasoning. The Library argues that the explanation is not subject to review. The Library maintains that the Union's claim of an enforceable past practice is not valid. It insists that the past practice claim is at variance with clear and unambiguous contract language. This position is based upon the belief that Article 10 establishes a structure of requests and approvals (or denials) making the Union's argument of an undeniable right unproven. In the alternative, the Employer claims that the evidence fails to prove an enforceable past practice as asserted by the Union.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:07 PM
The Employer concludes that there has been no violation of the collective bargaining agreement. It seeks an Award ordering that the grievances be denied in their entirety.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Discussion and Analysis The facts presented in evidence in the dispute at hand are quite clear. The Library and the Union are parties to a collective bargaining agreement [Exhibit J-1] covering the terms and conditions of employment for a unit of numerous titles, including librarians and senior librarians. The contract provision covering vacations is set forth in Article10 and reads as follows [in relevant parts]: A. An employee may apply for his/her vacation at any time during the twelve (12) months preceding the date of their proposed vacation. If two or more employees apply for the same vacation date in the same day, any conflict in scheduling shall be resolved on the basis of seniority. In the event an employee applies after April 1st for that same calendar year, such application is subject to denial based upon reasonable Library needs and the vacation time must be reapplied for. C. When an employee submits a request for vacation leave or personal leave the supervisor of the department shall notify the employee within five (5) working days as to whether or not the leave has been approved or denied.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:22 PM
If the leave is denied an explanation will be given to the employee by the supervisor. For an extensive period of time, librarians have submitted their vacation requests, well in advance, to the Branch Manager and requests for p riods of time in excess of two consecutive weeks have routinely been approved by the Branch Managers. On August 24, 2011, the Library Director issued a directive [Exhibit J-2] that "Any requests for more than 2 consecutive weeks of vacation must be approved by the director." Following the issuance of the August 24, 2011 directive, all requests for vacations in excess of two consecutive weeks were denied by the Library Director. The Employer is quite correct that the Union bears the burden of proving the contract violation claimed herein. The Arbitrator also agrees with the Employer that it has a management right to determine the supervisory personnel authorized to approve or deny vacation requests. Further, the Arbitrator finds that the clear and unambiguous language of the contract does provide for some basis for the Employer to reasonably deny vacations, where a specific and valid basis for the denial exists and is explained to the employee. The standard interpretation of Article 10, Section C, referencing that employees shall be given an explanation for denials, is a basis to find that the requests are subject to a reasonable approval process.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Note that the terms of the contract do suggest that for requests more than a year in advance the approval is simply based upon the absence of a scheduling conflict. While management does retain a general right to meet its staffing needs, under this language, the assertion of any denial requires it to establish the specific reasons for any denial and that denialo must be reasonable, not arbitrary. Even in the face of the above findings with respect to the Employer's contentions, the Arbitrator finds that the Union has clearly met its burden of proving a contract violation of Article 10 with respect to the denials of the vacation requests at the heart of this dispute. The record could not be more convincing; the Library Director acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner when she determined to deny all the vacation requests in excess of two consecutive weeks. No valid reason was given for these denials and the explanations offered during the Library Director's testimony at hearing were without substance and unpersuasive. The Library Director testified that the need to break up vacations in excess of two consecutive weeks was driven by several factors: greater entitlement; reduced coverage; reduced staff size; and budget r ductions. These proffered reasons do not stand up to closer examination.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:39 PM
The total annual allotment of vacation is a constant and does not decrease when scheduled in two-week blocks, rather than the longer ones historically taken by employees. The application of a rule against the approval of vacation requests in excess of two consecutive weeks does nothing to address the issue of the greater entitlement. That entitlement is an annual contractual right that is unaffected by scheduling limits related to consecutive weeks of scheduling. Further, the record has established that the coverage claim is simply not accurate. Coverage has been provided and does not change based simply on limiting consecutive weeks. For example, one four-week request, which was denied, was converted to a two-week vacation, followed by one week back at work and then an additional two-week vacation. There is absolutely no basis to suggest that such a change enhances the coverage for the Library. Finally, the budget issues are related to the overall unit-wide entitlement but unaffected by consecutive week scheduling. There is no evidence to even suggest that scheduling vacations in blocks of greater than two weeks has any negative impact on the operation of the Library. Rather, it appears that there is no reasonable basis to change the Library's prior experience of allowing such scheduling, subject to the contractual staffing controls.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:41 PM
In conclusion, the denial of the vacation requests in the three consolidated grievances presented herein were improper and in violation of Article 10 of the parties' contract. These denials were arbitrary and capricious and no reasonable explanation was provided to the Grievants, as required by the contract language in Article 10, Section C .. Indeed, there is absolutely no indication that there was any reasonable basis for the denials at all. The appropriate remedy is to order the Employer to cease and desist from continuing to arbitrarily deny vacation requests for more than two consecutive weeks.
Tom Maras November 22, 2012 at 08:48 PM
AWARD For the foregoing reasons IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Employer cease and desist from continuing to arbitrarily deny vacation requests for more than two consecutive weeks. Dated: November 4, 2012 Skillman, N.J. On this 4th day of November, 2012, before me personally came and appeared Joel M. Weisblatt, tb me known and known to me to be the individual described in and who executed the foregoing instrument and he acknowledged to me that he executed the same. For the record, I do not want to see our oh so vital libraries become another bastion of McCormac style nepotism, crony-ism, and political appointees! The system is too important for such political shenanigans!
Chris Stanley November 23, 2012 at 03:31 PM
The Mullen sisters have been exemplary employees in the library for a few years. What concerns me, Tom, is not what you know, but rather what you don't know.
Tom Maras November 23, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Chris, I am a quick study and try, as my friend Bill O' likes to say, to be fair and balanced. No lies, no spin! If you have input, please do input it.
FWS December 09, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Mr. Maras, why not express your interest in the well being of the system directly to a council member or the Mayor himself after a council meeting? In the meantime and if you haven't already done so, why not join the 'Friends of the Library' and show that you are willing to do some of the grunt work it takes to keep up a system as good as ours. Someone with your concern may have a place on other committees or boards as well; here is the link to the township application form for volunteering for boards and committess: http://www.twp.woodbridge.nj.us/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=5mtIS%2fE%2bJKY%3d&tabid=321&mid=2505. Good luck. FWS
Tom Maras December 09, 2012 at 12:29 PM
@FWS. Appreciate the suggestions. A few months ago I was honored to become VP of AARP,, Chapter 3869, Woodbridge. As such, plan on spending more of my time on issues related to the wellbeing of seniors. Then too, my interests in municipal government and BOE related matters takes up a lot of time as well. Still, if time allows, helping the library, even as grunt, would be a worthwhile endeavor. As to the mayor or town council putting be on a board, I subject the only board they would like to see me on is a water board! Happy Holidays!

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