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Former, Current Mayor Debate Handling of Stone Harbor’s New Hire

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – Suzanne Walters, mayor of Stone Harbor for twenty years, from 1997 to 2017, used a July 19 Borough Council meeting to continue to voice concern over how a recent hire of an assistant business administrator was handled.  

This time, current Mayor Judith Davies-Dunhour, who defeated Walters in the 2016 election, was ready to do battle over the issue. The six-member governing body and the borough’s business administrator became bystanders, uttering no comments on the controversy. 

Walters said she was speaking to clarify her previous comments on the personnel move. She specifically wanted to emphasize that her stated objections, voiced at the previous council meeting, were not aimed at the individual hired or her qualifications. Walters was objecting to the process.  

In previous meetings, she raised questions about why the process had been devoid of public discussion concerning the nature of the position, the salary attached to it and the need for it. 

Davies-Dunhour was prepared to defend the integrity of the borough’s decision and to celebrate the qualifications of the woman hired for the newly reestablished position. She read at length from the woman’s resume, reminding all that it was now a public document.  

Davies-Dunhour detailed how the resume arrived at the borough, why it was set aside for possible future reference, and the fortuitous circumstances that opened an “opportunity to upgrade the skills in the administrator’s office.”  

She went so far as to call it “almost divine intervention.” 

Aside from defending the new hire, Davies-Dunhour articulated the need for the position, which she said would “free up the administrator to deal with larger issues facing the borough.”  

Her argument was that the “upgrade” of the administrator’s office and the office of the clerk was accomplished with a net savings of $30,000 over the expense for the same functions previously. Davies-Dunhour’s math used the combination of salaries for the two offices, administrator and clerk, together. 

Walters emphasized that her remarks were about a process that did not involve the public and, due to a relationship the candidate had with a county elected official, could be perceived as inappropriate. 

Davies-Dunhour was intent on defending the candidate’s background, implying that that justified the process used. She never specifically spoke to the issue of the potential perception that politics played a role in the process except to dismiss it as not having any basis in reality 

Despite Davies-Dunhour’s assertion that council unanimously approved of the hire following a closed session in June, no member of council offered remarks. 

In the end, Walters said the public presentation made by Davies-Dunhour at the council meeting might have been better placed at the point of the hire rather than after it.  

“Then maybe we would not have the buzz we have,” she added. 

By now, the exchange was tense with Davies-Dunhour saying what would have helped was “more trust in government,” to which Walters replied, “Trust is earned.” 

The exchange between the two ended with the council meeting progressing to the next point on the agenda.   

To contact Vince Conti, email conti@cmcherald.com. 

Spout Off

Lower Township – As a retired long time bus driver for NJT,and an even longer resident of LT : Thank you to all the school bus drivers for an accident free year. It is a monumental achievement in this day and age!

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Del Haven – I couldn't help but note that a Republican Rep likened Trump's speech to that of a drunk uncle at a dinner party, when he ranted about Milwaukee as being a terrible "city", Pelosi…

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Wildwood – I think it's only fitting wbp honors past chief cirelli with some sort of badges on their uniforms . Chief Lou lived for the summers and only wished the best for our city

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