During the eight minutes of audio from Montclair’s hastily scheduled emergency meeting, following the death of interim town manager Joesph Hartnett, Mayor Sean Spiller offers this explanation of why the meeting had to be held immediately.
“When we got the terrible news, Mr. Burr rushed to find out all the information he could. It is our understanding because of payroll… you could speak to better than me [Spiller says referencing interim attorney Paul Burr who is on the call] but payroll, documents, other things needing to be signed, we as a council need to take official action to make sure we’ve got someone officially named to the spot to do so.”
Spiller later reiterates: “As was noted, we do have to have someone in the position and my understanding is we’ve got some payroll payment and some other things that have to happen immediately here and we need to have somebody at this juncture.”
We asked Montclair’s former Mayor Robert Jackson about the need for an emergency meeting.
“It’s troubling,” said Jackson, adding that the rationale for an emergency meeting could not have been payroll. “Payroll has been electronic for years. There is no involvement of the manager approving payroll.”
Jackson said the Township has had electronic payroll for decades, first using ADP and then Primepoint to handle payroll.
“There is nothing for the manager to sign off on with regard to payroll and no involvement of the manager in processing payroll,” Jackson said, adding that regardless, payroll had been done on August 4, so there was no emergent need on Monday [August 7] to have the interim manager in place, since the next payroll was not until August 18.
Jackson also questioned how Michael Lapolla, as interim manager, would be able to do any signing, if he was not yet a signatory. Lapolla was hired as a temporary employee without benefits for $10K a month, and scheduled to start work on August 14. Baristanet has asked the council and Burr if Lapolla has been made a signatory for the Township.
Procedural and Technical Difficulties
During the emergency meeting, Burr reminds Spiller to follow meeting procedure twice. The first instance is a vote to make Lapolla interim manager that takes place incorrectly before the vote to have an emergency meeting.
The second instance is later in the meeting, when Spiller begins to adjourn the meeting.
“Before you adjourn, I do want to remind you that you do have to open up to public comment,” says Burr.
During the time the council members wait for Tony Fan, Montclair’s Chief Information Officer, to check if there is anyone holding for public comment, council members on the call (Peter Yacobellis, Lori Price Abrams and Robin Schlager) take the opportunity to share their condolences for Hartnett’s family.
Right before the meeting ends, Spiller asks if there is anyone waiting for public comment and Fan says no. However, residents who emailed councilors following the meeting stated that they were on the call, but never let in for comment.