Mary Gruccio drinks the Bill Whelan Kool-Aid

In a very disappointing move, Mary Gruccio stabbed her Republican compatriots in the back and sided with Bill Whelan in a move to protect the jobs of unqualified political appointees. It seems Whelan will do anything to save the job of Jim Matlock.

The jobs of six department heads are safe — for now, at least — thanks to Freeholder Mary Gruccio breaking with her fellow Republicans Thursday to vote against opening those positions to an application process.

Bill Whelan saw the writing on the wall, and just prior to the last election concocted a scheme to protect the jobs of loyalist political appointees and employees. Bill had to save face; he is the person that recommended and moved to hire Jim Matlock ($72,000 a year). Under Matlock, the OEM/911 Call Center has been mis-managed, now faces four federal EEOC lawsuits, and morale is at an all-time low. Under Matlock, one employee was fired for signing a complaint, another was placed on administrative leave for cooperating with investigators. Every employee lives in fear of their job, and is unwilling to speak up. They ones that have been willing to speak have all confirmed that the 911 Call Center is a “Hostile Work Environment”.

Don Olbrich ($70,000 a year) was  major, hard-core, blinders-on supporter and contributor of Lou Magazzu and his regime. Olbrich was a “see no evil” sort of person when it came to partisan politics. As a reward, when he ran his own business into the ground he was give a plush county job with a pension, in a department that he had absolutely no experience running.

Jack Surrency ($65,000 a year) is a long-time party insider. He was appointed to a position heading the county Mental health Division despite the fact that the State of New Jersey declared him “unqualified” . As a result, the county is losing out on a State subsidy of Surrency’s salary.

And now Mary Gruccio is helping to ensure that the situation continues unabated. Make no mistake that this move by Whelan was a preconceived delay tactic. First a report is ordered, and now the waiting game. The report will be discussed, and tabled. Delay, delay, delay – the plan is to delay until next November when the Democrats will most likely win back their majority. At the very least, Whelan is buying time.

I would like to give kudos to Finch , Surrency and Olbrich for agreeing to participate in the public hearing, and to answer questions regarding their performance and job duties. I agree that they should not be forced to undergo a public flogging – nor should they be subjected to a witch hunt. However, the public does deserve to know what their jobs entail, and whether or not they are competent.

Personnel issues, and discipline issues, however, should only be done in private. I find it amusing that Bill Whelan was vocally against having this hearing public:

The meeting itself proved to be a point of contention among the freeholders, with Whelan leading the Democrats in questioning why the department heads needed to be questioned in public, adding they don’t have sufficient information to make a decision on consolidation or cast a vote on opening an application process.

MWatch began life, in part, because of a public with hunt led by Lou Magazzu. Magazzu and his minions public excoriated Ethan Aranoff in a shameful public execution of character. That sort of spectacle is never appropriate. However, every head needs to answer to the public about their duties so that we can make informed decisions.

It is a shame that Redkoles and Matlock refused to participate. What do they have to hide?

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12 Responses to Mary Gruccio drinks the Bill Whelan Kool-Aid

  1. CBKennedy says:

    I am so very discouraged. The Democrats are pros at this game and this latest debacle just shows that perhaps the Republicans don’t really want change, just the appearance of change. If they don’t act quickly and unified the landscape here will never change. These people were appointments, do you really think the Democrats would make a move this stupid if they wanted to displace Rupublican appointees? What is Freeholder Grucio’s problem?? Realize that the only tactic the Democrats have is to stall, and you are playing right in…..such a disappointment.

  2. WuLi says:

    It is January. It will be MONTHS if they began right now, before they could interview and hire replacements if necessary. However, with Whelan’s partisan plan to stall any forward movement,it will delay the process further. The purpose? To delay until the after elections next year.

    You say it isn’t a partisan ploy? Then why did Doug Long speak out, pretending to be “a concerned taxpayer”. When has he spoken out as a concerned taxpayer at any other meeting where tax dollars really WERE being wasted? This guy is a George Norcross loser – too bad Cumberland County Democrats ALL rolled over on their backs and allowed Gloucester County TRASH to run their party!

  3. Guess-Who says:

    Is D. Long even a Citizen of Cumberland County ?

    A “Concerned” Citizen, I am LMFAO 🙂

  4. WuLi says:

    Douglas M. Long resides at 2 Laura Court, Upper Deerfield, NJ. However, he has spent most of his political career in Gloucester and Camden counties.

    From his bio: “Douglas M. Long is one of the founding partners of Long Marmero & Associates and currently serves as the WRAP Officer for Gloucester County’s 322 Expansion Program, Solicitor for Deptford and Delran Townships, Attorney for Camden County VRO/VOP Program, Deptford Township Tax Attorney, Cumberland County Improvement Authority Solicitor, Special Litigation Counsel to Pemberton Township, Bridgeton Zoning Board Solicitor, East Greenwich Township Re-development Attorney and General Counsel for the Southern New Jersey Development Council. Doug was General Counsel for Damiano Long Engineering, LLC prior to creating LMA. His private clients consist of major telecoms, utilities, major and minor land developers, and others. Doug has represented the initiation of town centers in Woolwich, Washington, Harrison, Egg Harbor City, Upper Deerfield and Buena Vista Townships. He has also been responsible for advocating for his clients in redevelopment areas in Camden, Gloucester, Pennsauken, Logan, Woodbury, Washington Twp, Vineland, Salem City, and other municipalities. Doug has consulted with Camden and Gloucester Counties in acquiring property and negotiated the Synesis fiber loop for the City of Camden.”

  5. Wuli was Doug Long just appionted as council to the board of social services?

  6. WuLi says:

    In my opinion, Doug Long and his law office should have NO APPOINTMENTS and no COUNTY POSITIONS whatsoever – it is so CLEARLY a blatant conflict of interest. It is as if they thumb their nose at Cumberland County residents and with their snarky smiles go on with business as usual.

  7. baba says:

    Who were the anointed, proposed, replacements for the evil Dems?

    Is the proper political move to simply stack the deck with loyalists?

    Maybe Mary is smarter than her pals and this move will “prove” that the R’s are actually thoughtful about the positions and not just party stackers.

    Just sayin….

  8. WuLi says:

    Baba – I agree that being a party loyalist should NOT be a prerogative to being appointed. However – under the Magazzu/Whelan regime, this was in deed a fact.

    You have to be friggin’ BLIND to think that Jack Surrency should not be replaced with a candidate that the State of New Jersey doesn’t state is unqualified. We are talking public health here,

    And any director that brings FIVE FEDERAL lawsuits on us should be canned as soon as humanly possible. EVERY ONE of those lawsuits is costing Cumberland County taxpayers – out of their pockets! It is IRRESPONSIBLE to continue to protect people that are incompetent and unqualified for their positions!

  9. WuLi says:

    Oh, and Baba – it is CLEAR that Whelan’s tactics serve ONE PURPOSE – to protect his party loyalists’ jobs until After THE ELCTIONS in November.

  10. Calhoun says:

    Thursday’s meeting was bizarre. But read on for a solution (albeit somewhat complicated) to this mess that I think has merit.

    I. First the Rs.

    They decide to hold a special meeting to begin the process of removing some of the people in positions that were clearly given to them as political paybacks for favors done elsewhere. An added bonus was the possibility that maybe the positions wouldn’t be filled or consolidation might occur, thus saving taxpayer money.

    Sound good, right?

    Now the party in charge that has its act together wouldn’t even hold such a special meeting, unless they have the votes to effect the change (i.e., get the positions declared open) they are seeking. So one can only assume Kirstein thought he had 4 votes (the Rs) to declare the positions open and seek applications (or leave them vacant).

    And the meeting is held and lo and behold Mary Gruccio sides with the Democrats! What gives?! If the Rs knew she wasn’t going to vote yes, then the meeting should have never been held. If they didn’t, then the Rs are exhibiting terrible party discipline and their reign will be short-lived indeed. Does Mary actually think this will help her in November? I don’t.

    It also makes Kirstein look bad as the new director as one of the first significant votes he call for goes down in flames. When a director calls for a vote, his position (and party) is supposed to prevail; otherwise, the vote is almost always never called for.

    And let’s not let Sheppard off the hook either. He voted “yes” for most of these appointments when they came up for votes early in his term when he was the lone R on the board. If there were qualification issues with some of these appointments — and there clearly were — then he should have voted “no” back then. However, he didn’t — he voted “yes” and stated everything was “copacetic” between him and Magazzu. A “no” vote on some of these appointments back then would have given the Rs more leverage. Instead, his previous “yes” votes on them makes the Rs’ current actions look more partisan.

    And then there’s Fiocchi’s conversation with Doug Long, CCDO co-chair and “taxpayer.” Long: “As liaison to the department of public works, did you work with Don Olbrich?” Fiocchi: “No answer.” Long: “Would you say he did a good job?” Fiocchi: “No answer.” Long: “Well, you did say he did a good job, at a freeholder meeting, after the storms.” Sam just because counsel says you don’t have to answer, doesn’t mean you can’t answer. Long asked some simple questions (possibly hoping you wouldn’t answer?) and you took the Fifth. And whenever anyone takes the Fifth, he looks bad, and you looked bad. You should have engaged in some dialogue with Long.

    II. And now the Ds.

    As Carl noted, the Ds’ cries of unfairness ring a bit hollow in that Lou had criticized employees in public, the most notable example being the one Carl cited. However, in fairness none of the current Ds — Whelan, Musso, Surace — were on the board back then. Whelan’s claim that he never voted to remove a sitting appointed employees also rings hollow since he always — until now — was on the board when the Ds had the majority and almost all appointments (save for a few very minor ones) were held by Ds.

    Does anyone really think any of the people currently under the microscope got their jobs based on qualifications alone? And if not, then shouldn’t they at least be re-evaluated when a new party (the Rs) gains control? One would think so. Although, there is the odd way in which the Rs did come to power. They obtained the 4-3 majority last election even though they lost 4 out of the five (four freeholders, sheriff) positions on the ballot. That’s a hardly a mandate for the Rs from the voters.

    III. A Solution.

    If one can get past the politics surrounding these positions (an impossibility for many, I know), here’s is a scorecard of what I think should happen based on what I know. (I choose not to wait for Mecouch’s report, as reports like this rarely do little but kick the can down the road).

    A. Surrency: Out (through consolidation).

    He is not qualified, and, as a result, costs the county money. No one should be in a position without the proper qualifications. His willingness to get the certification he lacks is nice, but the position of department head is not one where the freeholders should allow for on-the-job training. Suggestion: combine the department as Kirstein alluded to with Aging.

    B. Olbrich: Out (replaced by Finch see below).

    Too political. He claims no one gave him his job expectations. Well, isn’t that swell: a department head who isn’t told of his job expectations. Sounds like a patronage appt. to me. But public works is important. Finch is a better person for this job. Move Finch here (see my discussion below).

    C. Matlock/Redkoles: Out and Out.

    Too much here regarding investigations. These people serve at the pleasure of the board and outside investigations — even if nothing come of them — is never pleasurable. A fresh start is needed.

    D. Van Sant: Out (through consolidation).

    Move CATS under Public Works.

    E. Finch: Out and In.

    Finch is better suited for the Public Works position. Pension padding aside, he’s there and he already serves as Director of Public Works in Millville. And he knows the county as well as anyone. Furthermore, having him stay on board would soften the partisan aspect of these changes — important given the slim 4-3 majority the Rs have and the shellacking they took in the last election (losing 4 of the five open seats).

    IV. Summary.

    The changes recommended above can readily be defended against charges of partisanship.

    A. You get rid of Olbrich (a D) but replace him with Finch (a D).

    B. Redkoles/Matlock have extenuating circumstances that maybe even the Ds would like to rid themselves of.

    C. Van Sant’s position was simply lost as CATS is consolidated under Public Works (still run by D Finch).

    D. Surrency and Finch’s current position are consolidated into one vacant position. You lose Surrency, but he wasn’t qualified anyway, and you move Finch someplace where he is more qualified. Furthermore, by consolidating the positions, you can advertise a position with a higher salary and really get someone who is thoroughly qualified — regardless of party affiliation — to deal with the County’s serious needs in the areas of health and aging.

    The Rs sorely need to make some changes in these department heads, and I think the solution above is reasonable (they would get three appointments, and save taxpayer money through consolidation of others). If they don’t make changes, then it is not unreasonable to claim that the Ds are in charge even when they’re not. The Ds sure got their way Thursday night.

  11. rabble says:

    Calhouun makes some sense. Wuli too. My comment was to point out the obvious flaw in the system, rewarding party affiliation over qualification. We have R’s who fail to support Litwack for Judge and D’s who insist on keeping unqualified people in “Lifetime” positions. Is it really different? Now that King Lou is gone what do the R’s do with their new found freedom? They seek the advise of a dirtball who has harmed their own more than almost anyone. The D’s are transparent in their folly, the R’s not so much but just as much.

  12. CBKennedy says:

    @Calhoun has put forth some solid ideas, it makes sense in strategy and savings. If the current majority takes a little extra time and effort they can eliminate some of the more” pork” positions. Leaving democrats closely aligned,in the ways of Maguzzu,nowhere to hide and off the public payroll. When back in the majority they will have to justify the added expense, for a political appointment. There is a time to concencess-build, and I dont’t think this is it. Face it, this is an unpleasant task, nobody likes to be the bad guy, and the r.’s have only got a short amount of time to get done what must be done…quickly.

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