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Arguments Continue Over Mayor Diaz’s Choice of Law Director

City Council 2

(L to R) Municipal Clerk Victoria Kupsch, Acting Law Director Arlene Quinones Perez, Councilman Joel Pabon, Council President Lisa Nanton and Councilman Fernando Irizarry listen to Residents.

PERTH AMBOY – 9/21/15 Caucus Meeting R- 407 – 9/15 – Consenting to the appointment of Arlene Quinones Perez as Director of the Department of Law effective September 1, 2015 and waiving the Residency requirement.
Council President Lisa Nanton and Acting Law Director Arlene Quinones Perez had back and forth discussions regarding this resolution.

The Codes in Question are: 4-20, 4-23. (You can find them on the City’s Website under the header, “Code and Ordinances.”

Quinones quoted the City’s Faulkner Act and told those present that the Mayor put this resolution on the agenda.
Quinones told the Council, “According to your code, the Mayor has appointed me and the Council has no authority. You can advise and consent.”

Councilman Fernando Irizarry was puzzled and stated that, “We (the Council) have very little to say on this?”
Council President Lisa Nanton stated, “The Council  reviews the agenda the Thursday before the Monday Caucus and the Council President reviews it on Friday. You (the Acting Law Director) has no authority to table this resolution.”
During the Public Portion of the Caucus Meeting, Resident Stanley Sierakowski questioned who has the authority to put a resolution on the agenda. “The lawyer said she gave a legal opinion. She can try and interpret the law, but not make it. Let’s get some expertise in this field.”

Resident David Caba came up to speak next, “You (the Council) have to look out for the interest for the people. You need to research – not for just one day. You have to look not just at the individual, but the whole firm. I don’t expect anybody to agree with me. You (some of the Council Members) are doing the right thing in challenging this. (the appointment of Arlene Quinones as Law Director) What you did tonight was right.”

9/23/15 Council Meeting – The controversy over the appointment of Quinones grew even more intense.
Resident and Police Chaplain Gregory Pabon was the first one to come up to speak about Communications 24 & 25 on the Agenda. The Communications were from Arlene Quinones Perez, Esq. Acting Law Director.
On Communication 24, Quinones Perez submitted a copy of a letter of reference from Albert G. Kroll of the firm of Kroll, Heinman Carton.

Communication 25 was a copy of a letter of reference from Paul Alexander Sangillo, Esq.
Gregory Pabon asked the Council, “Under the Faulkner Act, isn’t the Mayor allowed to appoint who she wants (as Law Director)?”

Councilman Bill Petrick responded to Pabon’s inquiry with one word, “Absolutely.”
Next up at the podium was Resident David Caba who stated, “The Mayor has the power to appoint, but the City Council has to approve. I congratulate you, Mr. Irizarry. When I come up here, I know there will be disagreements and controversy. The Mayor’s going to get what she wants. Mr. Irizarry and Mrs. Nanton wanted to look into this matter further. Irizarry, Petrick and Nanton – I applaud you!”

Janice Kovach, Mayor of Clinton came up to speak. She looked first at the Council Members and shortly thereafter turned around to speak to the members of the audience. She started out by praising Mayor Diaz, stating, “Diaz is the most nonpolitical Mayor I’ve met. She has the ability to appoint someone to help the City.” Kovach stated, “I, myself am a Democratic Mayor with a mostly Republican Council. We don’t always agree, but we work together.”

Kovach went then on to praise Arlen Qinones’ abilities and how she has helped communities that she didn’t even lived in.

Perth Amboy Democratic Chair and former Mayoral Candidate Billy Delgado told those at the  Meeting, “It’s time to move on. These are the same arguments back and forth. I’ve done research on Ms. Quinones. The Mayor gets to appoint the City Attorney. Mr. Blunda (the Previous Law Director) did not have the municipal experience. I’m embarrassed about some of the people who are talking about Mrs. Quinones. Approve her appointment; watch and hold her accountable. You did this with Blunda and he turned out to be a great attorney. The Council had legitimate questions about the Appointee (Quinones). Let’s go back to the codes and professionalism.”

Resident Susan Batista was next. She stated, “I don’t know the new attorney, but the public was not given 48 hours notice (about this appointment) – and that’s being disrespectful.

Resident Linda Ferreira said, “The firm has a bad reputation. If she’s qualified (Quinones), I need proof of it. Do it in front of people. A lot of the Council didn’t even know her. We need something substantial. I know her friends love her. Look what happened to the Board of Education. They were robbed of two million dollars.”

Resident Reinaldo Aviles said, “The City Council is the check, even though the Mayor can still bring back the appointee. You (the Council) are her clients as well as the Mayor’s. My issue is the residency requirements. Appointments in higher positions should live here.

Attorney Daniel Gonzalez who is Councilman Fernando Gonzalez’ son spoke in favor of the DeCotis Law Firm. “They are respectable. I don’t know her personally or why we are always fighting in Perth Amboy. This should not be political. As lawyers, we’re all trained to find out things. I challenge all to move forward and be on the same page. There has been rule bending about residency.”

Resident Dot Daniel came forward: “I’ve heard people admonish you (the Council) about arguing. I haven’t heard any. We need a Municipal Attorney on board. You never know what’s going to happen. I just want the people who work here to do right by the City. I’m asking the Council to move on. Let the person succeed or fail on their own, but give them a chance. I know her (Quinones) firm. I work with them and have nothing bad to say about them. To Arlene, I say take care of my town or you’ll have to answer to me.”

Pedro Perez said, “We should be proud to have her as an attorney and I welcome her.”

Mayor Diaz waited for others to speak before making her remarks, “I want everyone to know about Arlene. I mentioned to the Council that we are going to make changes. I have sat with other mayors and we have had open dialogues. I’ve known Arlene and about her community work and her love for the law. I trust her. You will be surprised about her knowledge. The League of Municipalities talked about what needs to be done. Arlene has a firm that won’t let her fail. No one has questioned my other appointees. I am not going to change my mind. You (the Council) have the opportunity to do the right thing.”

Diaz continued, “Before she (Quinones) was hired, she was looking at the City’s problems. Just give her the chance and the opportunity. She will not fail us.”

Councilman Fernando Irizarry wanted to research more of Quinones experiences as a lawyer.

“This includes bench arguments, litigations, appeal arguments or depositions.” The Councilman voiced the above concerns after he read a  prepared statement during the meeting. (See Page 4)

Councilman Bill Petrick said, “Resolution R-407 should have been put on as a late starter instead of it being listed as void.”

Councilman Joel Pabon who has been a supporter of hiring Quinones since the Mayor appointed her as Acting Law Director remarked, “I’m hearing questions that I haven’t heard before. It’s been 3 Meetings. Let’s get this over with. Let’s take a vote: yes or no!”

Irizarry countered this argument to Pabon’s opinion by remarking, “This is about procedure.”

Quinones interjected, “This (R-407) does not have to be reintroduced. 38 appointments have been made using this procedure. Municipal Code 4-20 (Appointments to Office) and 4-23 (Interim Appointments).”

Earlier in the Meeting, Councilman Fernando Gonzalez had made a motion to appoint Quinones Perez as the Law Director. Joel Pabon seconded the motion.

Councilman Irizarry insisted  that he didn’t have time to read the fact findings of the information that Ms. Quinones had handed out to each Council Member, the City Clerk and the Business Administrator that came from the Counsel to the League of Municipalities.

“The League of Municipalities did not write a legal opinion on this matter,” Irizarry stated.

The sticking point with the Council hinged on whether or not a Resolution which was tabled and then showed as void on the 9/21/15 Council Meeting Agenda could be reintroduced to be voted upon. In this case, Councilman Fernando Gonzalez argued that a motion could be made to have this resolution be voted on. He stated, “This has been done in the past. The Council can just take a vote to have the motion moved or denied.”

Gonzalez showed his frustration when he said to some of his fellow Council Members, “You are still looking to do research after 60 days? There is something going on to make a  mountain out of molehill.”

Councilman Joel Pabon couldn’t understand why this was being prolonged, “We had tabled this resolution before so Ms. Quinones Perez could do additional research so we could put this (The Mayor’s proper procedures for appointments to office) back on for tonight’s agenda. I have enough information on this lawyer and her firm. I have been given opportunities to prove myself. So should she.”

Council President Lisa Nanton still was firm on her reason why she would not vote on making Quinones Perez Law Director. “There was a conflict of interest on this appointee. No one will suffer or lose their appointments. I will like a chance to read more of the fact finding information biased and unbiased. We have been hit with a lot of lawsuits. She’s in this position until almost the end of the year.

Fernando Gonzalez was adamant in saying, “I will not withdraw this motion. I made a motion to accept the Mayor’s Appointment for Quinones as Law Director. There’s something going on.”

Fernando Irizarry responded back to Councilman Gonzalez, “Stop insinuating that something is going on.”

Councilman Bill Petrick spoke up and stated, “I am just concerned that the proper procedure is taking place. I don’t have a problem with Ms. Quinones’ credentials.”

Councilman Joel Pabon became agitated, “What’s it going to take to get a vote: yes or no?”

Council President Lisa Nanton stated, “The procedures need to be clarified. In the Codes, the language is ambiguous. The lawyer is in conflict. Not all of us had a chance to read the information supplied by the Counsel to the League of Municipalities. She (Quinones Perez) is giving us advice about voting on her job. I recommend that we table this (R-407). I would like to have the opinion of a third party. I was handed the packet and letters of recommendation on Monday (9/21/15).”

At the end of the discussion, Councilman Bill Petrick made a motion to table R-407 – 9/15. Irizarry seconded it. Councilmen Bill Petrick and Fernando Irizarry and Council President Lisa Nanton voted to table the Resolution.
The Council Meeting ended at 11:00 p.m.

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