Orange attorney: Edwards still owes city $268K

ORANGE, NJ — Despite Superior Court Judge Christine Farrington’s ruling Thursday, Feb. 18, that former Orange business administrator Willis Edwards III must repay the city $268,750 he was paid while working illegally as a city employee with that title, Edwards has failed to pay anything, according to Robert Tarver, attorney for the Orange City Council.

“We have another hearing coming up in the Edwards case, because he has not responded to the court order,” said Tarver on Tuesday, Aug. 9. “He hasn’t done anything. Once again, just blowing off the courts.”

Tarver represented Orange City Council in its legal fight with Mayor Dwayne Warren’s administration regarding the job title and employment status of Edwards when he was illegally appointed to serve as the city’s deputy business administrator.

Farrington’s ruling should have ended the turmoil created when Warren appointed Edwards the deputy business administrator after the governing body majority voted not to approve him as the permanent full-time business administrator at the end of his 90-day appointment as acting business administrator in 2012.

More recently, in June, the Warren administration tried to create three new positions: aide to the mayor, chief of staff and deputy business administrator.

“Yes, it’s true,” said former Orange City Council President April Gaunt-Butler on Monday, June 13. “Resolution 35-2016 was for the chief of staff, Resolution 36-2016 was for aide to the mayor and Resolution 37-2016 was for deputy business administrator. They were all tabled.”

According to Joyce Lanier, the Orange city clerk, the vote to table the three resolutions was 6-0, with City Council Vice President and at large Councilman Elroy Corbitt absent from the meeting on Tuesday, June 7.

And following a reorganization meeting Friday, July 1, the mayor put the three additions to Orange city government on the new City Council’s agenda for its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, July 6. The new council did not blink though.

“We shot those things down,” said West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson on Saturday, Aug. 6. “There was no way this new council was going to approve those resolutions. They wanted Tyshammie Cooper to be the new acting business administrator, too, but there was no way we were going to approve that … That’s how we got Chris Hartwyck, who is the acting (business administrator) now.”

“The mayor has absolutely no authority to appoint a deputy business administrator, with or without a director,” Farrington said in her ruling. “The power of appointment of the deputy is reserved to the director. However, there is more and that includes the willful, unlawful acts of Mayor Warren and defendant Edwards. The court finds they acted with knowledge and at their peril to circumvent the authority of the council. The court finds that the services rendered by Edwards in conjunction with both the deputy administrator and chief of staff positions were not rendered in good faith. They were rendered in clear contravention of state and local law and the order of the court.”

Edwards could not be reached for comment by press time this week.