Friday, September 23, 2011

Odd Details on WBLS Document

After hearing testimony from former City Administrator Bibi Taylor at Wednesday's special council meeting, I had to take a closer look at the documents I received through an OPRA request.

The image above is from the "Approval for Payment" box on the purchase order for the Aug. 1, 2010 Town Meeting for which WBLS was paid $20,000. According to Taylor, it was signed by IT Director Norman Christopher Payne, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Purchasing Agent David Spaulding.

Aha! So "S Rob B" must be the mayor!

But why is she listed as a department head? Readers may recall that when Payne was hired, the mayor declared he would report directly to her in his role as director of the new Division of Media and Information Technology. However, all divisions are required to be under one of the three departments listed in the city's special charter, so eventually the discrepancy was resolved when the City Council passed an ordinance placing the new division within the Department of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services. See Plaintalker's post here.

Payne's name has never come up before in connection with the WBLS matter, nor has that of another employee that Taylor mentioned. It remains to be seen whether the council will have to broaden its inquiry, which so far only involves Taylor, Spaulding, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson, former acting Chief Finance Officer Sandra Cummings and the mayor.

By having Payne reporting directly to her, the mayor sidestepped the system in which division heads report to department heads, who in turn are accountable to the city administrator, who is in charge of day-to-day operations of the city. This structure theoretically provides checks and balances on spending and such.

Payne came to the city in February 2010 after serving nine years in the Plainfield school district as an IT coordinator. The ordinance placing the new division under AFH&SS did not take effect until almost a year later.



  1. Don't forget that Spaulding and current AFH&SS director Al Restaino also sat on the RFQ review committee that awarded an illegal job training contract to the Incubator. That too is past its one-year anniversary, and like the check for WBLS that appeared at the 11th hour, the Incubator was included on the approved training provider list just before it would be disqualified from receiving its payday.

    But let's face facts. These shenanigans put us in a bad light, and more importantly squander resources and opportunities. They substitute theater for substance. But they are brought to us not just by a single individual, the mayor, they are enabled by a slew of individuals working in city government with the advice and consent of the City Council.

    That body has been derelict in advancing legislation to improve oversight or foresight, limit the flow of campaign dollars from public contractors, or do much else but be reactive.

    Serious work needs to be done to fix the jumble of divisions and departments within the city, and a holistic approach taken to citizen involvement and furthering cooperation between various public entities.

    We need effective programs, not just programs with a hospitality table in the back. That's if we want results. Much can be done to advance the public interest with more checks from the City Council along with the balance. The loose ends need to be tied together beforehand, not after the fact.

  2. I think Alan has a lot of excellent points. None of them will happen.
    Dem's and New Dem's won't clean house. If the New Dem's were interested in cleaning house and getting city government on track for the people and by the people..they would be campaigning actively for ANY candidate who is not presently in office that is standing in the way of reforming our city for the better... REPUBLICANS, INDEPENDENTS INCLUDED. Once the Dem Party in Union County realizes, "Oh, they aren't a bunch of mindless shmucks that take it on the chin at every opportunity," they will boot Jerry Green and hopefully get someone in control of the area party that actually puts candidates of substance forward for election to improve the city and city government for the people of Plainfield...Until then..we live in the 2nd class City of Plainfield.
    Anyone interested in improving Plainfield will get rid of all the people presently in office INCLUDING the New Dem's who aren't willing to stand up against the entrenched powers that be.

  3. STOP paying taxes instead of your impotent whining. Put your money where your mouth is.

  4. To 9:01am - you are so right. The New Dems, who I understand to be a group that want the bring change and ethics to this city are supporting the very people who are unethical. Adrian Mapp who is head of the new Dems supports Jerry Green. And people are supposed to think that they are any different from the RDO and will bring about change? So sad - they actually could have done something.

  5. We all know Sharon gets a lot of money from contractors and others, she didn't do anything about Connolly for years because of the money her gave her. She finally had to do something because Jerry Green forced her and it was an election year. Maybe the City Council needs to put more controls on the Mayor's Office and make sure things are transparent and honest, which we haven't had for years.

  6. Didn't Rebecca run on the promise of Pay for Play legislation? Will that happen before or after she rakes library park?

    Oh yea, I forgot, Adrian will never allow her to introduce Pay for Play legislation because Charlotte won't allow it. . .and Adrian has to listen to Charlotte if he want's to be Mayor.

  7. To 9:34 am,

    Um, I didn't rake library park--a group of community volunteers (of which I am one) has taken up a seasonal project to help keep our city clean by cleaning the library grounds and parking lots. I have not seen you rake, or even lift a finger to do anything to help our city--your sarcasm demonstrates how petty and small-minded you are.

    Yes, part of my platform was to introduce a strong Municipal Reform Ordinance regarding pay-to-play. It's coming very soon. I am sure we have four votes--hoping (hmmm...) for seven, though. As I am out doing fall canvassing among my constituents in the 2nd and 3rd Wards, I have been asking for support for this. Strong citizen support is necessary to push through reforms--given the good turnout (relatively speaking) I received from the residents in the 2nd and 3rd Wards when I ran, I think we can garner good support for this.

    However, we also need the support of the good citizens of the 1st and 4th Wards, which means that their representatives as well must be held accountable for whether or not they support reform measures such as this. If we have four votes, though, the legislation will go through.


  8. Bernice,

    There is ALWAYS the talk of cutting Red Tape, so when someone who has quasi-authority to sign things at City Hall, the group think is it is okay. Just wait until some vendor [with connections] can not get a check because the 'right' person can not be located, i.e. Friday afternoons.


  9. Why wouldn't you have four votes Rebecca?

    and why are you calling people names again?

  10. Rebecca - how do you know you haven't seen Anonymous "rake or even lift a finger"? He's ANONYMOUS. You have a bad habit of lashing out at people who question you. Calling a constituent petty and small minded is not really helpful. You're a public official. Let's work on taking challenges with more grace and less snark.
    ~Another Anonymous