A Guttenberg councilman and a former West New York police director have joined the staffs of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Angelica Jimenez (both D-32), respectively.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity of working in the majority office and seeing how everything works down there, the policy side of things,” Guttenberg Councilman Wayne Zitt said about being named the senior advisor to Prieto on February 1.
“Municipal government is one thing and going from a district office to a majority office is a huge jump. In the long term, I think this will help tremendously down the road.”
Zitt most recently served as Jimenez’s chief of staff, but inquired about the position within Prieto’s office when West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo was appointed as the Guttenberg administrator and director of personnel – a matter that the Guttenberg council unanimously approved.
The councilman said that there was no sort of “cahoots” in place for him to get a job with Prieto’s office after Cirillo was given a top spot in Guttenberg Town Hall, reiterating that neither official was guaranteed to get their new jobs since other applicants applied.
Coincidentally, Cirillo served as Jimenez’s chief of staff before heading to Prieto’s office as senior advisor – now the exact same path that Zitt has followed.
A former North Bergen football star, Zitt was appointed to the Guttenberg council in late 2015 and cruised to re-election in a November special election (he ran unopposed).
Cirillo earns $100,000 salary at the new post and Zitt declined to comment on his compensation.
“I needed somebody to be part of my presence in Trenton, he knew the system there, he was a natural fit, it should be a seamless transition,” Prieto said about the new hire.
With Zitt leaving, Jimenez found a replacement in Alberto “Al” Bringa: a former West New York police director who retired in June 2011 and has been running a private investigations business since November 2014.
Bringa, a close ally of former West New York Mayor Sal Vega, has largely kept a low profile since retiring, creating an element of surprise regarding his new position.
Whatever the background chatter may be, Jimenez seemed elated to have Bringa working with her based on a phone interview with Hudson County View yesterday.
“He’s ex-law enforcement, he’s a perfect fit … I was looking for someone that was either retired law enforcement or education because they’re able to dedicate time to issues in Trenton – issues that are important throughout the country,” she said.
Noting that she and Bringa “practically grew up together,” graduating from St. Joseph of the Palisade High School just a couple years apart in the 80s, Jimenez added that Bringa – a lifelong West New York resident – will be making “less than $50,000″ as her chief of staff.
While that figure is relatively modest, Bringa has an annual pension of $105,333 and also received a $271,000 payout from the Town of West New York in late 2014 after settling a lawsuit that alleged breach of contract and political retaliation.
Jimenez brushed off any such criticism though, stating that Bringa was simply compensated for what he was entitled to after nearly three decades as a police officer.
“The case he had against our town was mostly about time that was coming to him. It wasn’t that he sued the town for anything extra. He served for close to 30 years and [asked for] sick and vacation time that was due to him.”
Bringa reiterated Jimenez’s remarks regarding his lawsuit settlement simply being about gaining unused time he was owed, further stating he was excited to have a fresh start.
“I’m excited, with every new job comes a new challenge. It’s my pleasure to be back in the field of serving people in and out of the 32nd [Legislative] District,” Bringa said over the phone today, indicating he started work at the new job on January 30.
“I look forward to making the Assemblywoman’s office a place residents can go for any sort of help. I’m trying to get my feet wet into the legislative process. Like anything, it will come with time.”