Orange Clerk’s Office still hasn’t responded to OPRA request

ORANGE, NJ — Since Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren took office in 2012, the city has put some his family members and friends to work in the city payroll at the taxpayers’ expense.

The mayor’s brother Todd Warren serves as police director, and his cousin, Raymond Wingfield, was promoted to deputy director of the Public Works Department. Wingfield previously worked in the department for years prior to his cousin’s election.

Wingfield’s brother, Jeffrey Wingfield, ran for one of the three at large seats on the City Council in the May 10 municipal election, but failed to win seat.

And in a controversial hire that ended with a lawsuit, Warren put his friend Willis Edwards on the city payroll as deputy business administrator, a position Edwards no longer holds.

Despite repeated requests from the City Council, according to West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson, the Warren administration has never given a list of all new hires, with their corresponding job titles and salaries, made since 2012.

With these council’s requests in mind, the Record-Transcript filed an Open Public Records Act request with Orange City Clerk Joyce Lanier’s office Monday, March 7, for a complete list of all Orange Township employees hired since Mayor Dwayne Warren took office in 2012 — including their corresponding job titles and salaries — a request that remains unanswered almost three months later.

Instead, on Tuesday, May 3, the Orange City Clerk’s Office emailed the Record-Transcript a list of all city employees and their salaries; however, aside from a few positions, there was no breakdown by hire date, job title and salary as per the OPRA request.

Using limited information provided by previous requests made to the Clerk’s Office, the Record-Transcript has determined the following salary information for city employees: police Director Todd Warren, $70,999.76; finance Director Adrian Mapp, $109,999.76; Orange Deputy Director of Communications Keith Royster, $73,996; Orange Attorney Dan Smith, $65,000; and Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten, $65,000.

Mapp serves as Orange’s finance director in addition to serving as the mayor of Plainfield; Orange CFO Joy Lascari reports to Mapp.

Todd Warren also works part time as a prosecutor in both Plainfield and Irvington.

Edwards was officially listed as earning $119,999.88 while employed by the city. According to Judge Christine Farrington, Edwards was illegally employed at the time and, on Thursday, Feb. 18, she ordered him to repay Orange Township the $268,750 he’d earned while in that position. According to the Warren administration, Edwards is appealing that decision.

According to former Orange City Council President William Lewis on Tuesday, May 31, mayoral appointees serve “at the pleasure of the mayor; they serve as long as the mayor wants them to serve until June 30, when they are set to expire right before the mayor gets sworn in on July 1, and the council holds it reorganization meeting.”

“(The mayor) can just continue them in office. He may decide to replace some people; he may not and just leave them in. He could keep the same appointments. If he decides to replace someone, the clerk puts out an ad, the mayor makes a selection and presents it to the council, then the council meets to confirm. They’re all initially listed as permanent but, after 90 days, the council can review the appointment and, if the votes are not there, then the mayor will have to make another appointment,” Lewis added.

Orange Citizens Budget Advisory Committee member Bruce Meyer said he shares the Record-Transcript’s frustration when it comes to how OPRA requests have answered during Warren’s administration.

“The administration lied to the state in their best practices submission, saying that the information about new hires, employee salaries and job titles was published, in full, on the city website,” said Meyer on Thursday, May 5. “The first judge in the Willis Edwards case fined the city $1,000 a day – reaching $700,000 – to get the employment and salary information without success. All you can do for any information out of this administration is file an OPRA, wait the legal seven days and file a complaint with the state. Then nothing comes of the complaint.”

But Lanier said that, while the protocol for response is seven days, her office cannot provide documents it does not have.

“The only thing I control is the information I have within the Clerk’s Office; we can’t provide documents that we don’t control,” Lanier said Tuesday, May 3. “Please be advised that the Office of the City Clerk received your OPRA request on March 7, 2016, forwarded to the Administration for response on March 8, 2016, followed up for response on March 15, 2016, and two follow up meetings with the Law Department OPRA representative on or about April 13, and April 20, 2016.

“To date, we have not received a written response. However, we received a verbal request for a two weeks extension to retrieve the salary and wage information from 2012 to present. A response to your request should be available no later than May 16, 2016.”

Monday, May 16, came and went and, as of Tuesday, May 31, the Orange City Clerk’s Office still had not adequately responded to the Record-Transcript newspaper’s request.

According to Irvington Municipal Clerk Harold Wiener, it usually takes seven days for a clerk’s office in New Jersey to respond to an OPRA request.

“You’re supposed to get a response within seven business days,” said Weiner on Tuesday, May 3. “You have to get some kind of response in seven days. If you’re not satisfied with the response or you’re not provided with the records, you can file a denial of access complaint with New Jersey Government Records Council and they take it from there. They’ll intercede; they’ll contact the town or they could just rule that your request is not appropriate. But, normally, they intercede with the town to try to get you the information and records that you requested.”

Councilman Johnson said he specifically authored local legislation to deal with the issue.

“The salaries and organization: Ordinance 1-2015, which I sponsored, mandates that the administration post all employees’ salaries for three years on the city website,” said Johnson on Friday, Jan. 15. “The administration never posted the 2015 salaries, so the residents can view and compare the last two years. They stonewalled the council the whole year.”

Requests for a comment from the Warren administration about delays in responding to the OPRA request by Record-Transcript were not successful by press time this week.

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