Orange figures into Irvington mayor’s resignation of Hillside job

ORANGE, NJ — Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss recently quit his new full-time job with the Hillside Department of Public Works on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

Several current or former members of Orange’s administration have been connected to the administrations of both Vauss or Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson.

Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren previously worked part-time as an assistant prosecutor in the Irvington Municipal Court during Vauss’ administration. He also worked as the acting business administrator and Urban Enterprise Zone coordinator in Garretson’s administration, and once worked as the Hillside Township attorney while his cousin, former Hillside Mayor Karen McCoy, was in her second term.

Hillside Democratic Committee chairman Anthony Salters is a former spokesman for the Orange Public Library and the former executive director for the Orange Democratic Committee.

East Orange Code Enforcement Director Dwight Saunders is running the mayoral campaign for one of the four mayoral candidates competing to replace Garretson in Hillside in the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

East Orange Police Division Sgt. Craig Epps is running for one of the three at large seats on the Hillside Township Council up for grabs in the upcoming municipal election. He serves as the president of the East Orange Police Department’s Fraternal Order of Police union and heads the department’s Police Athletic League.

After Vauss officially resigned from his new job with the Hillside Department of Public Works on Wednesday, Sept. 20, he unofficially touched off a war of words between two of the four political campaigns competing to succeed Garretson.

“It is with great sadness that I tender my resignation from the position of general supervisor of Public Works for the township of Hillside,” said Vauss in his letter to Garretson dated Wednesday, Sept. 20. “It was my intention to bring my 20-plus years of experience in government and apply it to the many concerns and need of the Public Works Department. Unfortunately, my appointment in Hillside is not being measured by how we can work together to improve Public Works, but rather, this appointment has become a distraction from the hard work of the staff and your administration. I will continue to support you, regardless of my title, and look forward to how we can continue to collaborate as mayors of our respective townships.”

Garretson could not be reached for comment about Vauss’ resignation by press time this week, but she was on hand for his birthday party at the Martini Bar on Valley Street in South Orange on Wednesday, Sept. 20, along with other Essex County mayors, including Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren. Coincidentally, Warren also worked for Garretson in Hillside as her acting business administrator and then as her Urban Enterprises Zone coordinator.

Garretson said that, as of Monday, Sept. 11, Warren is no longer employed in her administration. Warren, a practicing attorney, previously served as an assistant prosecutor in the Irvington Municipal Court in the Vauss administration, prior to leaving that job earlier this year to work for Garretson in Hillside.

Warren still works as a prosecutor in Plainfield with Mayor Adrian Mapp, who is currently employed in Orange. Hillside Councilman Gerald Freedman said it’s such relations that angered many Hillsiders, who wondered why Garretson hired Vauss without properly vetting him with the Town Council.

“She didn’t do it the right way — by notifying us before she hired him or letting us know that she had hired him at all. As far as we’re concerned, he just showed up one day and we didn’t know anything about it,” said Freedman on Saturday, Sept. 23. “And then she didn’t hire him as a department head to be the DPW director, which she could have done, since she does have the power to appoint whomever she wants to appoint, when it comes to department directors. They get 60 days and then the council gets to decide whether or not that appointment becomes permanent. But that’s not what she did.”

Freedman said, despite his concerns about how Vauss was hired, he still hoped for the best and even tried to work with him to address longstanding issues in the DPW. Both he and Vauss said they went on a tour of Freedman’s ward so the councilman could show Vauss what needs to be done there; both said the outing went well.

Garretson, “said he could do the job,” said Freedman. “I don’t have any problem with the guy. There’s nothing personal going on here, as far as I’m concerned. We just have work that needs to get done in this town and, if she thinks that he’s the guy to do it, then fine; let him go do it. I don’t care who does it, as long as it gets done and the person is hired the right way, according to the law and proper procedure. That’s it.”

But a few days later, Vauss resigned.

“As a public servant, my dedication is always to the betterment of the service received by the constituents of any administration I am a part of and I dedicate my time and energy to producing the best results no matter the operational and/or fiscal climate,” said Vauss in his resignation letter. “I am hereby recommending Danny Pinto to replace me as general supervisor of the Department of Public Works. I worked well with Danny over the last two weeks and I believe he will be an excellent fit for this position.”

Garretson is running for a seat on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders in November, instead of for a second term in her current office. There also three at large council seats up for grabs. Four different slates of mayoral and council candidates are vying for those positions.