Saturday, April 19, 2014

More election season political hirings in Bergen County?

After uncovering irregularities with Mr. Thom Ammirato's hire by the County of Bergen (and conflicts of interest with his City of Hackensack contract), I dug a little deeper into some of the County of Bergen's crop of hires from the Bergen County Republican Organization.  It appears that Mr. Ammirato's political hiring wasn't a fluke and there are some questionable hiring practices at One Bergen Plaza.

Republican Councilman (and candidate for reelection) from Rochelle Park, and former District 38 Assembly Candidate, Joseph Scarpa served for fourteen years as the Emerson Borough Administrator.  In November of 2013, for no doubt politically motivated reasons after a year of strife including harassment charges brought by the borough clerk and filed against a councilman, Mr. Scarpa's contract was not renewed.  Mr. Scarpa was paid through the end of the year and landed on his feet in no time as a Director of Administration and Program Development for Bergen County's Department of Public Works.

Mr. Scarpa submitted a job application to the County of Bergen on February 21, 2014.

For what he submitted an application, I am unsure.  As you can see below, I don't think he was certain either.

What he was hired for was an $85,000 per annum position as the Director of Administration and Program Development. 

I am not sure what this position was, so I asked.  I learned that Mr. Scarpa would be acting as basically a second in command to a department head.  A job that I am sure he is more than qualified, perhaps over qualified, for after serving fourteen years as a Borough Administrator. 

What was curious however, is that Mr. Scarpa's application for employment was seemingly blank.  There was no phone number, no background information, no position applied for, and no references.  Mr. Scarpa also did not submit a resume for consideration.  

According to, a resume is "a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job."  In Bergen County politics (I'm sorry, I mean government), applicants for jobs seem to not submit resumes (or even complete applications, for that matter).  I have asked for several other key employees' resumes and have been advised by County Counsel that no resumes were submitted.  It seems that in Bergen County the old it ain't what you know, but who you know, is less of an adage and more of an unwritten rule.

I wonder how Mr. Scarpa was contacted for an interview?  An email address and phone number were not provided.  How was his education confirmed?  A bachelor's degree is REQUIRED for this position, but the education information on the employment application was left blank (and no resume was submitted).  Since no phone number was provided, an interview had to be set up via mail, right?  I asked for communications with Mr. Scarpa from the personnel department and all that was produced was a short email announcing he was hired.  

Further, I find it curious that Mr. Scarpa did not disclose his past employments on his application.  He was specifically asked for all previous government employment on his application and he only disclosed that he was a Councilman in Rochelle Park.  He did not disclose that he was the Borough Administrator for Emerson (or Bogota) under the expansive "previous employer" section of the application. 

Mr. Scarpa is a direct report to Joe Crifasi, the Bergen County Director of Public Works, Chairman of District 36 of the Bergen County Republican Organization, and ghostwriter of many a political 'Letter to the Editor.'  I wonder if that is a coincidence? After all, Mr. Scarpa is an out of work Republican with strong ties to the BCRO....

What raised the most questions of all about this hiring is that the position seems to have gone UNADVERTISED!  I requested a copy of the advertisement for this position and I was provided an advertisement for a Director of Administration and Program Development in the Department of Human Services (NOT PUBLIC WORKS) from 2012.  Perhaps this is why Mr. Scarpa left the position applied for section of his application blank?

I followed up with County Counsel seeking clarification.  Perhaps naivete.... I did not understand how Mr. Scarpa was hired to a different department than the fifteen month old advertisement that the County relied upon for hiring him.  I also did not understand why Mr. Scarpa's base salary was more than three times the advertised rate.  Requests for clarifications have gone unanswered since April 4th.  

Further requests for employment applications have been DENIED by the Bergen County custodian of records.  County Counsel has taken the position that the job applications of other (what I deem to be) politically motivated hires (mostly direct reports to County Executive Kathe Donovan) are not subject to disclosure under OPRA.  When asked why Mr. Scarpa and Mr. Ammirato's were previously provided, I was advised they were provided in error.  It is funny how transparency and open government go out the window when you shake the wrong (well, right) branches.

**I take no issue with Mr. Scarpa or his employment by the County of Bergen.  I am certain that he is qualified, and even a nice guy as I was continually reassured of by the number of phone calls I received within 48 hours of submitting OPRA requests for his application and resume (it is funny how much chatter comes from both the County and City when I submit requests for documents).  What I take issue with is the non-transparent and politically motivated hirings, the what looks to be CREATION of a position.


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