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Gabbert Could be Appointed to Sewage Commission

Village Manager of Ridgewood on Freeholder agenda to be appointed a Commissioner of the Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority

's Village Manager is expected to be appointed as a Commissioner of the Northwest Bergen County Utilities Authority (NWBUA) at the upcoming Bergen County Freeholders meeting.

Ken Gabbert, who's served as Ridgewood's Village Manager , is on the agenda to be appointed to the utilities department on March 7. The body, which counts nine members, is responsible for overseeing sewage processing for the ten communities in Northwest Bergen County.

Howard Hurwitz, the Executive Director of the NWBUA, said Friday some present commissioners have received a $5,000 stipend and medical benefits. That is, until County Executive Kathleen Donovan in recent months condemned the taxpayer expenses, .

A spokesman for the Freeholder Board, which makes the appointments as recommended by Donovan, said Gabbert and the other nominee (Elizabeth Salazar) would not be receiving stipends or medical benefits if they're to be appointed on March 7.

Ten mayors in Northwest Bergen County – including Ridgewood Mayor Keith Killion and Gabbert, who until recently was the mayor of Upper Saddle River – wrote a letter in support of the recent vetos.

Donovan's Chief of Staff, Jeanne Baratta, did not return several requests for comment.

According to Gabbert's Memorandum of Agreement signed with the village on May 26, 2010, Gabbert needs explicit approval from the council in advance for "outside employment".

Per the memorandum: "During the term of his employment as Village Manager, Dr. Gabbert shall not engage in outside employment, except as has been approved in advance, by the Village Council. It is understood by the parties that Dr. Gabbert is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Bergen County Joint Insurance Fund, the New Jersey Excess Joint Insurance Fund and the Municipal Excess Liability Fund."

Several village council members had not been made aware of the prospective appointment, they said.

Councilman Paul Aronsohn, who has , said: "Any professional obligation that could potentially affect his Ridgewood responsibilities should be vetted by the Council first. Clearly, we need answers."

But Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh, remarking that she's not an attorney, said she doesn't believe the appointment would constitute "employment," as there is no salary or medical benefits associated with it.

Mayor Keith Killion said he had not been made aware of the nomination prior to this reporter's phone call. He said the council will discuss the matter with Gabbert at a closed session meeting, as it's a personnel issue.

Village Attorney Matt Rogers, reached by phone Friday, said he had not been aware of the appointment and did not know if it would be considered "outside employment".

The NWBUA typically meets the first Tuesday of the month. Appointees serve five-year terms.

Gabbert did not respond to requests for comment.

[Editor's note: This article was last updated at 5:12 p.m. Friday to include comment from Mayor Keith Killion.]

Melvin Freedenberg March 03, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Well, I guess delgado answered one of my questions with regard to what Dr. Gabbert has to gain; pension credits. I thought Gov. Christie was taking a stance against outrageous pension deals or does that only have to do with working Democrats?
Craig Hueneke March 03, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Is it me or am I the only one that finds it only fitting that he is going to dealing with the sewer commission?
JoeD March 03, 2012 at 09:45 PM
He should jump right in to this opportunity
mike petty March 03, 2012 at 10:18 PM
He was given a 12 percent raise. He disappeared during the big October storm. He applied for the boro manager job in Ramsey. Now Gabbert is taking a county job. Village Council wake up!!!
Logan Ruppel March 04, 2012 at 08:20 PM
We always expect openness and accountability from our leaders. So when the Ridgewood Village Manager wants to seek outside employment, we need to know about it. We need to decide if that’s ok. Ken Gabbert should have made sure that our village council members all knew about his appointment to the utilities authority so they could ask the questions that are on everyone’s minds. Will Dr. Gabbert still be able to devote the time and energy required to serve our town if he’s also working for the County? Why does he get a raise when so many others are seeing their pay frozen? That’s the kind of openness and accountability we expect.

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