Following are some of Mayor Bagnell’s responses to allegations by The Group of 20:
Moved commission meetings to 5:30 p.m. “because most 9-to-5 workers can’t attend.” This time is in line with surrounding municipalities. Ex: Margate, 5 p.m. Longport, 4:30 p.m.
Gave 125 percent raise to management specialist Tom Quirk from $20,000 in 2012 to $45,000 in 2013. “ I gave him a 125 percent pay raise, but to put it in perspective, our Public Works base salaries are $48,000 to $49,000. He’s still one of the lowest paid city employees and his position is crucial to our city.”
Hiring City Solicitor Amy Weintrob as a “political IOU” to her father and City Engineer Charles Sabatini because he’s a friend of 40 years. They were “the best people for the job.” On Weintrob: “Despite her focus on divorce and criminal law, her entire law firm (Hankin, Sandman & Palladio) is at our disposal and they have one of the top municipal attorneys in the state as one of its partners.” On Sabatini: Bagnell doesn’t deny friendship, but adds, “at a $100,000 salary, I’m saving the city over $500,000 a year over what the prior administration was paying in engineering costs.”
Lack of communication during Hurricane Sandy. “Once we got our phone service back on Oct. 31, our office, with the help of employees and volunteers, answered at least 500 calls per day.”
Lack of pre-planning during Hurricane Sandy: “Upon receipt of Governor Christie’s mandatory evacuation order, Ventnor's Emergency Management, Police and Fire departments and Public Works executed their standard emergency plans as they have done many times in the past.”
Lack of post-planning during Hurricane Sandy: Given the magnitude of this extreme weather event, which has never been encountered in the entire Northeast part of the nation, there were unexpected and unanticipated issues which arose during the storm. These were dealt with immediately and resolved as soon as was humanly possible. In the following week, we had an emergency assessment meeting where we discussed what went right and what went wrong during the event. We came up with recommendations as to how to prepare for what went wrong and not have the same issue(s) arise in the next major event.
Submitted inflated claims for reimbursement to FEMA for repairs to City Hall and replacement of equipment not damaged by storm. “The heating system in city hall is covered by flood insurance, FEMA had nothing to do with it.”
Added $3 million to debt in December: This was a three-year emergency note (at .71 percent), which can be paid off at any time, to pay for the costs incurred as a result of Superstorm Sandy. We used just under $1.7 million of this. We have so far been reimbursed by FEMA $600,000 of the money for overtime and the initial cleanup. We have been approved for an additional $700,000 (expected in September or early October) with some outstanding submittals that are in the process of being approved. All total, we will be only responsible for just over $110,000 of that initial moneys spent.
We have been approved for bonds in the amounts of $2.3 million and $5 million in April, of which, we have yet to encumber. We were approved for a Community Development Loan of up to $5 million in May. We have only encumbered $1.4 million of this. It will be reassessed in three years and the indication was that in all probability it is going to be converted to a grant. If it is not converted to a grant, we will be responsible for the portion that we use. This at an interest rate of 1 percent, or less.
Acquired long-term debt by putting Ventnor West/Ice Rink land swap on hold. N.J. DEP put more than $2.1 million of funding needed by Ventnor to pay down pier debt on hold too. This $2.1million is broken down as follows; ($1.3 million is a loan and $800,000 is a grant). We started working on this as soon as we obtained the information, which is pertinent to this issue.