ORANGE, NJ — Former Orange City Council President William Lewis’ death continues to affect the community, with the vacancy it created on the Orange Public Library’s investment board, which manages endowments bequeathed to the institution.
The library board is a separate entity from city government, something board member and Orange native Nicole Williams-James recently stressed.
“I’ve been treasurer for a few years, at Bill Lewis’ recommendation,” said Williams-James on Monday, March 6. “The board is completely separate from the city’s administration of the library.”
In addition to a replacement for Lewis, Williams-James said the board is also seeking one for former member John Samaroo, the manager of the M&T Bank branch, who also left the board recently after leaving the bank.
“There’s no formal application or selection process to get appointed to the investment board,” Williams-James said. “It involves finding people with the right set of skills and abilities to do this and the desire to honestly serve. The board meets twice a year and is completely independent. Everything that we do is governed and dictated by the terms of the endowment consent decrees so there’s no room for any fiscal or financial shenanigans.”
At Lewis’ funeral, former Zoning Board member and 2016 mayoral candidate Janice Morrell confirmed the administration, which is currently being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cannot have a say in how the library board manages its endowments.
“The mayor doesn’t get to make appointments to the investment board,” said Morrell on Saturday, Feb. 25, after Lewis’ funeral service at St. Matthew AME Church on Oakwood Avenue. “They are a wholly autonomous entity serving the Orange Public Library that cannot legally be interfered with, that chooses and appoints its own members.”
“There’s a library board appointed by the mayor,” explained Lewis on Aug. 8. “That’s their job; to set up a mechanism for tracking all that stuff. We’re the investment body. We don’t get involved with the library operations.”
“To reiterate, the city administration has absolutely no say in our operations,” said Williams-James, adding the search is currently on by herself, Art Griffa and other members of the investment board for replacements of the two now vacant positions.