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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.]

MaroonMom March 02, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Wasn't the timing of that 12% raise because he wasn't Mayor of that other town any more and could devote his time to Ridgewood???? Maybe we can get the raise back because of this new distraction. If he genuinely respected the Mayor and council he would have let them know about this position. He made them aware of those other board roles so why wouldn't he do it for this one too???
Ron Verdicchio March 02, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Who leaked the Bergen County Authority story to the Patch? Sounds like BC Democratic politics getting tangled up in Ridgewood affairs. Maybe Councilman Aronsohn knows something? We really do need answers.
Boyd A. Loving March 02, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I agree with Councilwoman Walsh; that is, Dr. Gabbert had no contractual obligation to notify Village Council members since political appointment to a non-paid position does not constitute employment. However, I do believe it would have been appropriate for Dr. Gabbert to have informed Village Council members of the pending appointment so they did not have to find out about it via a reporter's telephone inquiry.
Dominick Nizza March 02, 2012 at 11:07 PM
It's the power of influence and being influenced that makes it an "issue". Inappropiate employment while our Village Manager,Give one or the other up. Being paid or Not being paid is similar to unpaid Board Education members being responsible for spending tax payer's $.millions. This clearly is a personnel problem and the public informed of it's decision.
delgado March 03, 2012 at 01:13 AM
This is an outrage, Bernadatte Walsh gave thousands to the Bergen Republicans and now she is defending this selection. Also the Freeholders can get rid of the stipends in one resolution at the NWBCUA, but the Republican Freeholders are not doing it. Also the Republicans ran on a pledge to end double dipping (like a Commissioner and Town Manager), but now they are encouraging.
Ridgewood Mom March 03, 2012 at 01:19 AM
... and the plot thickens...
Long Time Resident March 03, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Thanks to Paul we now know that our Village Manager cares more about his political connections and influence than the Village job he holds. Gabbert should be devoting all of his time to the business of the Village, especially taking into consideration his obvious lack of ability to do his job effectively in the first place. I for one would not be unhappy to see Mr. Gabbert leave the Village.
John Q. March 03, 2012 at 01:44 PM
"plot thickens"?????? Are you kidding me? Is everything some sort of conspiracy? No wonder the best and brightest stay out of politics.
Melvin Freedenberg March 03, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Something I don't understand. Why would a Village Manager who has come under fire for being overpaid and underperforming take on additional responsibilities that would further dilute his effectiveness? It doesn't make sense. Does Dr. Gabbert believe he is immune from criticism? What does he have to gain? How can he show the taxpayer's of Ridgewood that this appointment is to their benefit? As his employer, the taxpayers of Ridgewood would like the answers to those questions and more.
delgado March 03, 2012 at 04:42 PM
The bigger outrage is Bergen County Executive Donovan (who has been critized for taking a $85k pension and a $140k salary) would appoint a boro manager who has his own salary issues, to the NWBCUA where he can collect pension credits and NOT acutally take the pay. Also the County Executive has failed to convince her own Republican Freeholder board to change to end this benefit. Additionally, its well known the appointment of the former Republican Wykoffs Mayor law firm to be the NWBCUA's new EXPENSIVE legal counsel is also a major concern as to how commissioners were forced to vote for them. Seems Donovan is trying to cloud this major problem by placing a lighting rod like the former USR mayor into the mix...bad for Ridgewood, bad for Bergen Republicans, bad for Republican contributer Walsh
delgado March 03, 2012 at 04:48 PM
its a paid position, which the indivdual commissioner CAN deny the $5,000 per year income, yet they will still be able to receive the pension credit, so Dr. Gabbert can do it for 3 years and retire and then for the rest of his natural life, he will get a nice $2,500 per year (50% of total) at the least,,, oh and also may be more willing to giving some political contributions to the Bergen Republicans, just like Honorable Walsh has done...nice little scam by our beloved phoney reformers Bergen Republicans, but the worst of it is, the supporters and enablers of this crew..
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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