The Hoboken City Council approved former Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante as their new public safety director at Wednesday night’s meeting, along with a $29,000 pay raise for Acting Police Chief Steven Aguiar.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Aguiar, 41, was named acting chief on March 1st and the pay increase, which was included as part of a salary ordinance, came after contract negotiations with the city. His previous salary was $226,000 and measure passed unanimously (9-0) without discussion.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced Ferrante as the city’s new public safety director about a month ago, filling a position that had been vacant for over six years at a salary of $155,000.
However, his appointment still required council approval and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos said he thought allocations to city directors were too high right now, as well as that Aguiar deserved a chance “to put his imprint on the police department.”
” … This salary is $155[k], constituent services is $80[k], the number two for public safety is about $50[k], $55[k], so I found about $300,000 so there’s no way I’m supporting that tonight just on that item alone,” he explained.
“Secondly, when this item came up, when Councilwoman Giattino brought this up earlier, we have a new chief in place and I’d like to see that new chief put his imprint on the police department without fear of having an oversight … or other employees going around him, potentially seeing him undermined … I don’t want to see that happen here.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said that Ferrante was a good fit for the job, noting his vast experience and positive support in the community, but questioned the timing of the hire.
” … He chose to retire last summer. We had a great interim police chief step into the role, we have an existing fire chief who is on leave, we have an interim fire chief, we have a new interim police chief, and we have a head of OEM,” she explained.
“Combined, the six of them, I think they make over a million one (1.1), a million two (1.2)? We have capable people that have worked really hard to go to the top of their game and we support them and I think we should support them.”
The annual compensation for Ferrante, Aguiar, Peskens, OEM Coordination Sgt. William Montanez, Fire Chief Brian Crimmins, who is on administrative leave, and Public Safety Advisor Anthony Romano, also a county commissioner, comes out to $1,118,487.
She continued that she would like to see the city’s preliminary budget before approving any new personnel and since the budget wasn’t ready to be presented yet she would be abstaining.
Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero, the chair fo the council’s public safety committee, said the public safety director would not impede the police chief in any way.
“In fact, we’ve gone a number of years without this position that is encoded in our city ordinance and in that ordinance it specifically states that ‘the director of public safety shall be a civilian position, and as such, possess no police powers,” he read.
“The director, I’ll paraphrase here, may not interfere with the routine day-to-day operations of the police department … so I don’t see any threat to Chief Aguiar, his new role, which I support wholeheartedly, as I do Chief Peskens in his current role.”
6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino also said she’d prefer to see the budget before hiring new personnel, to which Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour noted that his salary has already been covered through a temporary appropriation.
5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen and Council President Mike Russo also joined in praising Ferrante’s track record.
“I’m thrilled to support him here tonight and that doesn’t even do the justice of how much I do support him. I think he’s phenomenal and I think he’s gonna be a great asset to this administration and continue to be an asset for the City of Hoboken,” Russo stated.
The measure passed 7-1(1), with Ramos voting no and Fisher abstaining.
Expectedly, Bhalla put out a statement in support of Ferrante following his confirmation by the council.
“As a decorated former Hoboken police chief with decades of experience Ken Ferrante is an ideal addition to City Hall as public safety director,” Bhalla said.
“He knows what it takes to keep Hoboken and our residents safe, and I look forward to working with him in his new, official capacity. Congratulations Kenny and thank you to the Council members who voted on his confirmation.”