8/4/2010:

Zimmer gives staff raises, but wants Cops fired

How would you like a 31% annual raise? Does a 25% salary bump after only three months on the job sound good to you?

That’s what Mayor Dawn Zimmer gave two of her spokesmen the same week she announced a plan to lay off 36 other workers. 18 of those layoffs are Police Officers, and news of the big raises for her staff was included in the police unions’ response to the layoff plan. Following these revelations, the Mayor’s claim that she is, “Extremely, extremely concerned about the budget” looks pretty silly to many people Hoboken411 has heard from.

Zimmer responds to widespread backlash

Nearly a year ago when Zimmer hired 25-year old Dan Bryan to be her “Confidential Aide” we told you his salary wouldn’t be kept at $35,000 for long. In fact, Hoboken411 predicted there would be a big raise in his future when nobody was watching. Hiring Bryan put an energetic campaign worker on the city payroll. For a while he served as Zimmer’s spokesman, but now he’s essentially the Mayor’s gopher. That’s why comments like this from Zimmer are quite frankly deceitful:

“Dan Bryan, my confidential aide, who essentially performs the functions of a chief of staff, received a raise from $35,000 to $46,100. The individual who held the chief of staff position previously for the prior Administration was paid $125,000.”

– Dawn Zimmer

How can Dan Bryan be a “Chief” of staff when one has no legal authority or power to direct staff whatsoever as part of his “confidential aide” job title? The chief of staff position proposed by the prior administration would have placed all city Directors as direct reports to the Chief of Staff in lieu of a Business Administrator. Says one City Hall critic, “It’s disingenuous and deliberately misleading of Zimmer to mix these apples and oranges. Joe Garcia was a highly qualified attorney who was going to run the city day-to-day. Dan runs to get Dawn her lunch.”

Dan Bryan does not run the City of Hoboken. He doesn’t give orders. He is NOT a Chief of Staff. Anybody who watched The West Wing would know this, and if Dawn Zimmer had spent more than a few, non-management-level years in the private sector before marrying into an affluent diamond family, she would understand this as well.

The Mayor’s Tweeter gets a 25% raise

Juan Melli first started cashing Hoboken taxpayer checks at the end of last winter when he received an open-ended contract from Zimmer to handle “New Media.” He was paid $15,000 to set up and administer the city’s Twitter account and turn the official city website into what looks like the Mayor’s MySpace page. This contract was awarded quietly while Zimmer went back on her promise “To cut taxes 25% in the first year alone!” and was not submitted for City Council approval.

Melli was hired in the middle of May at a salary of $60,000 a year. As layoff announcements were made, Zimmer quietly bumped Melli up to $75,000. Her explanation?

“Mr. Melli did not receive a raise, but agreed to work for a lower salary than initially agreed upon until the end of the fiscal year because of Hoboken’s budgetary constraints.”

– Dawn Zimmer

So, let’s get this straight. Melli was hired at $60k but three months later makes $75k and that’s not considered “a raise” by this Mayor? If you got a $15k bump, would you think you got “a raise?” In response to this comment one city taxpayer told Hoboken411, “How have Hoboken’s budgetary constraints changed since the end of the fiscal year? She’s laying people off to make room in her budget to give her buddies raises!”

Zimmer continues, “Mr. Melli’s new media expertise saves the city from having to outsource for web site management.” So, if Melli was not plastering Zimmer’s face all over the city web site (and coordinating with mayoral groupies online), Zimmer would have outsourced that job? Not even Dave Roberts did that!

Who is Juan Melli? How did he become an employee?

Melli’s job is to make a majority of Hoboken voters think Dawn Zimmer can spin gold out of straw. His official title is “Public Information Officer” (one of two the city employs) – but his real job is Chief Spinmeister, both online and off. Melli is best known as the founder of the “Blue Jersey” Democratic blog website. The 29-year old parlayed that accomplishment into the hearts of many state Democratic party players (see picture below).

Melli holds a Doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, but has instead decided to get into the political consulting business. Melli served as “Director of New Media” for Governor Jon Corzine’s 2009 re-election campaign and claims to be the first to use text messaging in a New Jersey political campaign. Corzine lost anyway. Zimmer apparently met Melli when they were both advocating for Bike Lanes in Hoboken. He has no prior experience in the field of “Public Information,” but has spent quite a lot of time blogging for politicians.

Take a look at what his consulting firm does, and ask if you think Hoboken taxpayers should be footing the bill so Zimmer can reap the benefits from it.

The Bottom Line

This story is not meant to be an opportunity to pick on Dan Bryan or Juan Melli. They are both hired guns just doing the tax-payer funded job their boss – Mayor Dawn Zimmer – wants them to do for her. This isn’t personal, and everyone I’ve spoken with actually speaks highly of both Bryan and Melli, who both live in Hoboken. There’s no doubt there are some real screwy characters attached to this Mayor, but these two don’t appear to be in that category.

This story is about decisions made by Dawn Zimmer to hand massive raises out to those who are paid to do her dirty work – while 36 other employees are waiting to hear if they will be fired due to “budget cuts.”

What do you think? Comment below.

(and see Police Union letter here)