Zimmer Expands City Payroll
411 Note: If you want the version of this story that was spoon-fed from City Hall, look elsewhere. If you want to go deeper with some real insight into business as usual in Hoboken, read on.
Bryan hired to assist Acting Mayor
After running on a platform of “cutting government spending” and “ending cronyism” at City Hall, Interim Mayor Dawn Zimmer is increasing employee headcount by giving a friend a job.
Zimmer made her first Mayoral hire this week for a position that was never publicly advertised. There was no equal opportunity job posting, invitation for applications and resumes or other open process before the hire. The Acting Mayor simply awarded it to a person who worked hard on her campaign. In a move eerily similar to appointments made by former Mayor David Roberts, Acting Mayor Zimmer hired Daniel J. Bryan to the title of “Confidential Aide To The Mayor.”
Find out what this “Confidential Aide” does and MORE after the jump…
(Dawn Zimmer un-advertised appointments, continued…)
What is a “Confidential Aide?”
Good question! It’s a government job classification that allows the Mayor to hire pretty much anyone for any reason as long as the City Council approves a budget to pay for it. Suzanne Hetman was a “Confidential Aide” to Mayor Roberts, hired in 2001 at a salary of $70,000 a year. Hetman was widely believed to be installed as the “eyes and ears at City Hall” for former State Senator Bernie Kenny. As Roberts began to wind down his time in office he transferred Hetman to run the Rent Control Office, which you may have heard is the subject of great controversy and legal wrangling lately. Hetman now makes over $96,000 a year. That’s more than the veteran she replaced, whose trained successor was passed over by Roberts to ensure Hetman would still have a job at City Hall after he and Kenny exited the political stage.
So this is a patronage thing then?
You might say that. Others are saying it’s also a job protection move for the Acting Mayor. Bryan will serve at the behest of Zimmer as she mounts her campaign for the November 3rd election. His duties are said to include improving the city website (which just before Roberts left had already received a substantial overhaul), working with the media and coordinating meetings with constituents. It’s the “working with the media” part that has some shaking their heads, since the city already has TWO Public Information Officers, and Zimmer has ordered advertising to hire a third. Just after Labor Day Zimmer will be in full-on campaign mode ahead of the November election. Having a former full-time campaign worker like Bryan with her can help her cause.
Who is Daniel J. Bryan?
I asked around. Dan is 25 years old and by all accounts a really nice guy and hard worker. He got his start in local politics by volunteering for the Beth Mason for Mayor campaign.
“One day Dan just walked in the door of (Mason) headquarters and offered to volunteer. Nobody knew him. He was apparently not working at the time and was a fixture throughout the campaign. He would blow up balloons, answer calls and man the desk… the usual duties. He was always around and a big help, but never said very much. Some joked Dan might have been sent in by the Cammarano or Zimmer campaigns to spy on us because he hardly said a word but always seemed to be listening!”– A former Mason for Mayor volunteer
After Mason endorsed Zimmer in the runoff, Bryan became a fixture down the street at Zimmer headquarters…
“Dan is an energetic young guy who was a great asset to the campaign. He would run around and get things done, and seemed to really gel with Ravi (Bhalla). Last I heard he was assisting Ravi with some of his council duties.”– A former (and probably future) Zimmer for Mayor Volunteer
But should the only qualification for a Mayor’s Confidential Aide be that he’s a great campaign volunteer? The answer in Hudson County politics is, “Of course! What else do you need?” The Acting Mayor is well within her rights to hire someone like this without posting the job, but more than one person is grumbling that is doesn’t jibe with Zimmer’s rhetoric regarding open appointments, smaller government and transparent process.
$35k plus benefits now, but after the election?
One of the time honored moves of the Hoboken patronage playbook is to make a potentially unpopular or impolitic hire at a low salary with a promise to jack it up later if things go well (or when people aren’t paying attention). The classic example involves the hiring of Parking Utility Monitor John Corea. Roberts hired Corea at a salary of $24,500 at a time when the City Council was trying to put a lid on payroll. Roberts just raised the salary once the political coast was clear. Last year Corea made $116,548. Critics say if Zimmer is elected in November Bryan’s $35,000 salary will most certainly rise — if not double – if she wins a full term.
Bryan vs. Garcia
Acting Mayor Zimmer’s internet response team is trying to compare the $35,000 salary to the $125,000 that Joe Garcia was to be paid as “Chief of Staff.” The job classification under state guidelines may be similar, but that is where the comparison ends. Garcia quit his job at a big NYC law firm and took a pay cut to help improve his hometown. He was far more qualified to aid in the running of the government than the young Mr. Bryan, who will not be given day-to-day management responsibilities the Chief of Staff would have been responsible for.
So what do you think? – Is adding a new job to the payroll as the first order of business for an Acting Mayor the right move, or does it fly in the face of the campaign rhetoric? Is it much ado about nothing, or another sign that the names have changed but the game is the same? Share your view below in the most read comment section in Hoboken.