West New York Board of Education candidate Ron Scheurle went off on Mayor Felix Roque and his administration at last week’s board of commissioners meeting for approving a $20,000 raise for Silvio Acosta, a former deputy mayor who is now the superintendent of the Department of Public Works.
Scheurle, a retired town hall employee who is also the director of a local funeral home, began his public remarks by reading section 40A:9-154.1 of New Jersey Administrative Code, which pertains to the employment of adult crossing guards.
“Every adult school crossing guard shall be under the supervision of the chief of police or other chief law enforcement officer of the municipality where he is appointed and to perform his duties only in such municipality,” Scheurle paraphrased from the state statute.
“We have, in this town, the Department of Public Works addressing this situation, which is against state law. We have a man who is supposedly the superintendent of public works, putting people [crossing guards] out: what are we doing? Do we break every law?”
West New York Legal Counsel Monica E. de los Frios said the issue was a personnel matter and therefore could not be discussed during public session.
However, according to information obtained via an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, Acosta, also a board of education trustee who is not seeking re-election this year, was granted a $20,000 raise – with his salary increasing from $104,145 to $124,154 – effective July 1.
The reason for his raise was simply listed as “additional duties” and now town officials didn’t provide any additional details on why the raise was granted, nor what additional responsibilities Acosta would be taking on.
In response to Scheurle, West New York Municipal Administrator Jamie Cryan said that local police department do not always oversee the appointment and distribution of crossing guards.
“Just to interrupt, I’m sorry for interrupting, but there are a large number of board of educations that actually run the crossing guards in the state.”
That answer didn’t sit well with Scheurle, who cut Cryan off before he could continue.
“The point is that the Department of Public Works should not be handling crossing guards, at all. It should be the police department or the police chief or the police director. That’s the person who should be handling this case and it’s … it’s sickening.”
Scheurle said the town’s decision is putting public safety at risk: “If one kid gets killed coming down there, it’s all on you. That’s murder as far as I’m concerned.”
Cryan later added that the town crossing guards recently received a new contract and are some of the most valuable employees on staff.
Back in September 2015, only Hudson County View reported that the board of commissioners unanimously approved a search committee to find Acosta’s successor as DPW superintendent.
However, the search committee of Mayor Felix Roque, DPW Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez and a member of the public was never formed and therefore the plan to replace Acosta never came to fruition.