The Jersey City Employment and Training Program board made a formal $120,000 offer to who would be their third executive director in 2019 in the midst of financial hurdles that were detailed at last night’s meeting.
After a closed session that lasted about a half hour, the board unanimously (8-0, Commissioner Jeremy Farrell was absent) approved a measure to make the six-figure offer to Katrice Thomas, who currently works for ResCare Workforce Services in New York.
Thomas, who was interviewed by the board in executive session, stuck around to hear the good news and while she said she didn’t want to make a “knee jerk” decision, she seemed to indicate that she would be taking the job.
“I do have to give notice to my current employer and I do have a rule I’ll share with you guys: I try not to make very tough decisions on the spot,” she told the board.
” … So as excited as I am, I have to follow my own rules I put it in place for a reason, you don’t want to make any knee jerk decisions, but I’m super excited and I appreciate you guys for having faith in me.”
Also a Jersey City resident, Thomas has no relation to previous Acting Executive Director Sudhan Thomas, who is also the president of the local board of education.
Sudhan Thomas, who was not paid for his time at JCETP, gave his two-week notice to the agency on July 22.
He has since been named in a whistleblower lawsuit filed on August 9th by former JCETP employee Nuria Sierra, accusing him of firing her after trying to bring to light several alleged financial improprieties that included writing at least three checks to cash that totaled $16,500.
Thomas served as acting director for about seven month after the board terminated former agency chief Jim McGreevey, a former New Jersey governor, in January.
The board also hired Hackettstown-based law firm Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen at last night’s meeting to represent them in a separate litigation involving the New Jersey Department of Labor.
They have been retained on an as needed basis, with attorney being paid $200 per hour and paralegals being paid $115 per hour, according to a letter from the firm to JCETP obtained by HCV.
Additionally, JCETP Board Chair Stacey Flanagan said that the NJDOL has still not sent a letter of obligation to the agency, despite being two months into the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
However, based on prior financial commitments, JCETP should be able to operate through December.
“Based on the prior years funded, we are able to continue doing business with the vendors that have been in contract, the prior year, until December 31st. So we’re not terribly concerned, but we’d really like to have that letter and the mayor has reached out to the commissioner of labor to follow up on the status of our letter,” Flanagan explained.
JCETP Director of Finance and Administration Angel Santa added that their bank accounts have just roughly $14,000 remaining right now, despite over $300,000 due in upcoming bills and payments.
According to Santa, at least $220,000 is required for already written vendor checks, at least $71,849.21 necessary for accounts payable, a well as a $14,709,26 bill for next month’s health insurance, Santa explained.
If the health insurance bill isn’t paid on time, the plan will be cancelled, he also said, noting that everything hinges on the NJDOL approving a FedEx cash drawdown for $342,987 that he sent out on Thursday.
“I’m out of time: if we get the cash draw down that we put through in time, then we’re okay – at least for another month, until I get the next one out,” Santa stated, noting that the city is also yet to allocate any funding to JCETP for the current fiscal year and that the drawdown must be received by September 3rd.
Santa concluded by saying that someone had recently tried to withdraw a check from Provident Bank for “a little over $400” that bounced. He said he was not sure who had written the check but would go to the bank to find out more information today.
On that note, Flanagan told the board that JCETP has recently reduced their number of bank accounts from five to three and are waiting on the results of a state audit to close the aforementioned Provident Bank account.
Also in the interest of getting the agency’s finances in order, the board approved a measure to allow Pompton Lakes-based accounting firm Ferraioli, Wielkotz, Curullo & Cuva, P.A. to perform tasks such as reconciling bank statements, monthly accruals and accounts receivable and assisting with vendor and employee payments – among other things.
They will be paid on an as needed hourly basis, with $200 for partners, $150 for managers, $125 for seniors, $100 for staff and $75 for administrative employees, based on an August 7th letter prepared by the firm.
Furthermore, city spokeswoman Ashley Manz said that the city council and administration are working closely with JCETP to get their finances stable again.
“The Administration and City Council are working closely with the JCETP board to repair the damage that was done here as we all believe it is one of most important single stop job providers in NJ,” she said in an email.
“Once stable leadership is formally put in place we fully intend to work quickly with JCETP and the State of NJ to help on the financial front to get this entity back to where it needs to be.”