Coley’s 45-day extension is business as usual for directors

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange 5th Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman clarified her remarks with regard to city council’s vote to extend acting Public Safety Division Director Sheilah Coley’s temporary appointment by another 45 days at its regular meeting on March 26, following Mayor Ted Green’s request for the extension.

“We just gave her another 45 days,” said Holman on Tuesday, April 3. “After that, that’s it. She doesn’t get another extension.”

Coley had been appointed the city’s first black female acting director for public safety Monday, Jan. 1. According to state law, all appointed department heads and city employees “serve at the pleasure of the mayor,” with the approval of the municipality’s legislative body. Mayoral appointees may serve for 90 days before receiving final approval by council to continue any longer.

Green asked the council for a 45-day extension for Coley and the majority approved; her permanent status will be re-examined in May.

“We do things differently here in East Orange, so all department head appointments are for 45 days at a time. We just approve two 45-day appointments for a total of 90 days when appointments are made initially,” said Holman on Tuesday, April 10. “Sheilah Coley didn’t get singled out for a 45-day extension after her first 90 days. All of the other acting department heads that had not been confirmed yet all got 45-day extensions. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m against Sheilah Coley, because that’s not the case. I’m for anyone that wants to do the best job they possibly can for … East Orange.”

Holman, who served as chairwoman of the council’s Public Safety Committee for most of her years as an elected official, said “public safety will always be very important to me.”

“I used to call the members of our police, fire, emergency services and first responders ‘my people,’ because I really truly did take my position as the council’s official liaison to their various departments seriously,” said Holman. “I still take public safety seriously and I’ll always take public safety and the men and women that work so hard to protect and serve our community seriously. That’s the least that I can do, in recognition of the services they provide and out of respect and appreciation for the personal and professional sacrifices they constantly make to do their jobs and do them well.”

Holman said it’s “hats off” to Coley and all who work in the East Orange Public Safety Division. Her sentiments echo current City Council Chairman Romal Bullock and 1st Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis, the current chairwoman of the governing body’s Public Safety Committee. Both Bullock and Lewis agreed that Coley’s 45-day extension was just routine council business, not anything out of the ordinary.

“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 Bullock on Tuesday, April 10. “We granted it mainly 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.”

On Tuesday, April 3, Lewis shared Bullock’s sentiments and added, “Several directors’ 90-day periods were extended; however, I am looking forward to Director Coley being confirmed. 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 words of support and for recognizing the good work her officers have been doing. She also said council extending her acting director status by 45 days was 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.”

Holman said that was a relief to her.

“I’m glad we cleared that up,” said Holman. “We all need to be on the same page, working together to help the mayor fulfill his motto of ‘one city, one community and we have one goal and that equals progress.’ Public safety is a part of that, too.”