Public Safety director takes 45-day extension in stride

Photo by Chris Sykes
East Orange Public Safety Director Sheilah Coley, right, and Police Chief Phyllis Bindi, left, speak at a 4th Ward community meeting in 2016. Normally, a mayor hires or appoints a department head, who the council approves, and that person serves in an ‘acting’ capacity for as long as 90 days, before council decides whether to give them final approval for a regular full-time job. Usually, council approves the mayor’s choice, but sometimes decides not to give final approval, and the mayor has to either appoint someone else or ask council for an extension. Mayor Ted Green asked council for a 45-day extension for Coley, which was approved; she wasn’t the only department head whose term was extended.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — As Mayor Ted Green approaches the first 100 days of his tenure, East Orange City Council members are carefully observing how he assembles his administration.

“The mayor is coming up on the end of his first 100 days and I know that one of his main priorities is assembling the team that he wants to assemble, so we’re giving him the leeway we think he needs to do that,” said East Orange City Council Chairman Romal Bullock on Tuesday, April 10. “We granted it mainly because, while he’s trying to assemble his team, I’m not sure what his plans are. I know there are other department head positions that got extended, too. He’s probably weighing his options and I think we’re all giving him the opportunity to do that. We worked with him all these years, when he was on the council, so we know what kind of leader that he is, so we’re trying to support him and give him as many options as we can.”

1st Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, echoed Bullock’s sentiments, and explained why council had decided to give acting Public Safety Department Director Sheilah Coley a 45-day extension to her temporary appointment at the regular meeting on Monday, March 26. According to state law and the Faulkner Act, all appointed department heads and city employees “serve at the pleasure of the mayor,” with the consent of city council.

Normally, a mayor hires or appoints a department head, who the council approves, and that person serves in an “acting” capacity for as long as 90 days, before council decides whether to give final them final approval for regular full-time job. Usually, council approves the mayor’s choice, but sometimes decides not to give final approval, and the mayor has to either appoint someone else or ask council for an extension. Green asked council for a 45-day extension for Coley, which was approved; she wasn’t the only department head whose term was extended.

The difference between Coley and the others who received extensions is that Green promised to make public safety a priority in his new administration, even before his transition team’s public safety meeting took place, at which residents related stories about shootings, burglaries, car thefts, carjackings and other concerns.

“Several directors’ 90-day periods (were) extended; however, I am looking forward to Director Coley being confirmed,” said Lewis on Tuesday, April 3. “In July 2017, crime in East Orange was up 29 percent. Director Coley was placed over in operations, in an effort to reduce that percentage. Her strategy and expertise, along with her staff assistance, brought crime down 20 percent in our city. That is progress!”

Coley thanked Lewis for her support and for recognizing the work her officers have been doing. She said the extension of her status as acting director is not an issue.

“That was done with all of the directors,” said Coley on Tuesday, April 10. “With 23 directors, it would take an inordinate amount of time for the council to interview all of the appointees. So I wasn’t concerned about the extension.”

Coley said she’s grateful for Green making public safety a priority in his new administration and added that she will make the most of it.

“My plan for driving down crime began in October last year,” said Coley. “I had a plan I was ready to roll out on Jan. 1 and that’s exactly what we did. We got through the first quarter with an 18 percent crime reduction. We’re sitting at a 21 percent reduction right now. We won the first quarter, so now we’re gearing up again and preparing for the second quarter, because it’s my intention to win that as well and I think we’re well on our way.”

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