The Hudson County Freeholders discovered that Public Safety Director Ralph Green had relocated his offices from the county corrections facility in Kearny to the Meadowview office campus in Secaucus and wanted to know why at their Sept. 12 caucus meeting.
The Meadowview Campus has become the location of numerous offices for the county, including Hudson County Regional Health, which is a nursing care facility and a facility for the mentally ill. The property also contains the county’s Juvenile Detention Center which houses about 100 residents, and several privately-run facilities also operate at that campus.
County Administrator Abe Antun said he had spoken to Green on the issue, advising the director to move out of the jail. Antun said staff members were coming to him on everyday matters, rather than the person who serves as correction facilities administrator.
“I thought this would give Director Green an outsider’s view of the facility, and since he is also responsible for the juvenile facility that is located on the Meadowlands Campus, that seemed like a good location,” Antun said. “He apparently followed my advice.”
The idea, Antun said, was to maintain the chain of command that has corrections facility personnel answering to the facilities administrator rather than Green. While Green was once warden of the jail, he was promoted to director several years ago. The facilities administrator has the same duties as a warden but does not accrue tenure, which means he can be removed at the will of county government – something much more difficult with a warden.
Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons said he was not comfortable with the move, saying that the director should be easily accessible in case of a problem.
“I can’t imagine him trying to get to Kearny down route 1 & 9 if there is an emergency at rush hour,” Fitzgibbons said, noting that isolated from the jail, Green could be kept in the dark about ongoing problems.
Antun, however, said the previous public safety director had not kept his offices at the jail.
But other freeholders pointed out that the previous public safety director had had other responsibilities such as watching over the now-defunct County Police – many of whose responsibilities have shifted to the County Sheriff.
In a related matter, several freeholders wanted clarification on the role of Green’s personal aide and what powers the position had to regulate activities within the jail. Several freeholders had heard reports that the aide had routinely directed the operations of guards in the corrections facility.
Antun said the private aide can assume administrative functions at the jail, but does not have a position in the chain of command, thus cannot direct personnel. He can take over routine administrative duties should Green take a vacation or other absence.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea felt that Green should be granted the power to name his own assistant, something that he does not have now.
At their Sept. 14 meeting, the freeholders took several related actions. The board:
• Introduced a $4.3 million bond ordinance that would pay for upgrades to the Hudson County Schools of Technology. This will include the purchase and installation of surveillance equipment at various locations and various improvements to the county’s schools in Jersey City and North Bergen. Fitzgibbons asked Superintendent Frank Gargiulo if expansion was planned, saying he had concerns about expanding the North Bergen building – a former factory. Gargiulo, however, said the bond would cover renovations and improvements, but not expansion.
• Introduced an ordinance that would allow the use $1.2 million from its Capital Surplus Fund to help pay a portion of the cost of expanding the Correctional Facility.
• Approved an $8,000 change order for work done by Bulla Construction on the Meadowview Campus. They also approved an $188,000 HVAC upgrade for the Psychiatric Hospital at Meadowview, and $19,900 for window repairs there.
• Accepted $76,816 from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services for USDA Meal Reimbursements.
• Accepted a $37,084 grant from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety Crime Victims Assistant Program.
• Amended its budget to partly match a grant from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotic Task Force. This is a grant that helps defray some of the salaries in the prosecutor’s office. The state grant is for $302,088 and the county portion is $100,696.