ORANGE, NJ — Although Resolution No. 333-2016 was approved by Orange City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the decision was not unanimous. According to the City Clerk’s Office, both West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson and at large Councilman Chris Jackson voted against the resolution, which called for the simultaneous appointments of Chris Hartwyk as Orange’s new full-time business administrator, Eric Pennington as the new full-time city attorney, Todd Warren as the new full-time police director and attorney Rashida Hassan as the new Orange Municipal Court judge.
Attempts to contact Mayor Dwayne Warren’s administration regarding Resolution No. 333-2016 by press time were unsuccessful, but council members did give statements.
“The bundling of the confirmations didn’t afford me to have a stand-alone vote on each individual candidate,” said Johnson on Tuesday, Oct. 25. “Todd Warren, it’s nothing personal against the mayor, but we have a nepotism clause in our personnel handbook that says directors can’t be city employees reporting directly to the mayor. In order to appease the council, they changed the resolution so that Todd Warren would be reporting to the business administrator and not directly to the mayor, who is his family member.”
Todd Warren, Mayor Dwayne Warren’s brother, served as deputy police director during the mayor’s first term in office was appointed acting police director after the mayor was re-elected to a second term earlier this year.
“I guess family looks out for family by any means necessary,” said East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley on Tuesday, Oct. 25. “But we need a business administrator. Chris has been doing a fantastic job. Right now, our business administrator is the pillar at City Hall. He’s what’s keeping City Hall together right now. Without Chris Hartwyk, that place would collapse.”
Todd Warren served in an acting capacity for 90 days, but when he came before the governing body at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, the council did not vote to appoint him as permanent police director.
If this seems familiar, it’s because something similar happened in 2012, when the council voted not to approve the mayor’s handpicked appointee, acting business director Willis Edwards, as the permanent, full-time business director. In response, Mayor Warren appointed Edwards deputy business administrator, so he could continue to manage the city’s business and financial dealings. This led to legal battles, resulting with state Superior Court Judge Christine Farrington’s ruling that Edwards had to repay the city of Orange Township $266,750 that he earned while working with this title. Even before Farrington’s final ruling, the administration kept changing Edwards’ job title, in an effort to keep him salaried. Eventually, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued two subpoenas related to Edwards’ activities while he was in charge of Orange’s finances. He is currently appealing Farrington’s ruling against him.
Now, thanks to the 5-2 vote by council on Tuesday, Oct. 18, Todd Warren has been confirmed as the new, full-time police director, despite an earlier council decision not to approve the appointment.
“The council voted 4-3 on Todd Warren the first time,” Johnson said. “The council president and the council vice president have an obligation to move legislation. So it’s a give and take. The trade-off was we were going to get a real business administrator. Chris Hartwyk has already made a significant impact on how City Hall is being run. He’s righting the boat. The mayor filled the city with his friends and family and they’re costing the city millions of dollars and we had to get someone in place to start doing something about that.”
According to the City Clerk’s Office, Resolution No. 333-2016 passed with Orange City Council President Donna K. Williams and Coley voting in favor of it, along with North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason, South Ward Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson and at large Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten.
Williams, Coley, Jackson and Johnson had voted together against appointing Todd Warren in September as the “Orange Home Team” coalition. Johnson insisted that, despite the split in their vote, the coalition isn’t falling apart. Williams and Coley had originally voted against Todd Warren becoming the full-time police director.
“We still got our four-vote package together, but our leadership wanted to do what they thought was best for the city at this time,” Johnson said. “Me and Chris Jackson wanted to be on the record about our vote. The vote is clearly on Donna and Coley changing their vote, so they’ve got to live with it. That’s their prerogative and we chose them to be our leaders and that’s politics. Me and Chris Jackson feel that you have to believe in some things that you do and that’s it. It’s a 5-2 vote, but we’re still together as the Orange Home Team.”
Coley agreed with Johnson’s statements, saying Orange needed a real business administrator, such as Hartwyk, more than they didn’t need another Warren administration crony or relative.
“Every issue that we were going through on my campaign for mayor, Chris Hartwyk dissected it, so he knew every issue. So when he came in, he just hit the ground running,” said Coley. “When the opportunity came, he was on point with everything. He’s the right person at the right time. He has the experience, the work ethic and he’s very resourceful.”
“If I had won the election, Chris Hartwyk would have been my business administrator,” Coley said. “Even though Todd is the mayor’s brother, Todd reports directly to Chris Hartwyk. There is no going around him. Chris Hartwyk holds all the cards.
“Politics is all about compromise and horse trading,” Coley said. “Rather than going through all this unnecessary litigation and wasting money, you just have to hold people accountable. If he falls short, he’s going to have to pay. You just have to hold people accountable. I don’t want to hear anymore Mickey Mouse excuses. You want it, you got it, it’s done.”