When Republicans gained one of their infrequent holds on Cumberland County government last year, members of the opposition party paid the price.
The Republican-dominated Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders fired several Democrats from their government positions while appointing some fellow party members to county jobs.
Now, with the results of the November election giving Democrats a majority on the board, it is the Republicans’ turn to take the hit: The freeholder board has already fired five county government job holders.
At least three of those who were fired — William Gonzalez, Michael Barruzza, and Susan Sauro — all have links to the Republican Party. Barruzza and Sauro were appointed to their positions as director of the county’s juvenile detention center and coordinator of the Cumberland Area Transit System, respectively, as part of the Republicans’ purge of county government last year. Gonzalez lost his post as the county’s 911 coordinator.
County Republican leaders were, not surprisingly, outraged.
“Given this move by the new Democrat leadership of our Freeholder Board it is painfully obvious they have chosen political patronage over qualifications,” Cumberland County GOP Chairman Bob Greco said. “It is very unfortunate the Democrats have decided to choose patronage over doing what is best for our county.”
Democratic Cumberland County Freeholder Doug Long said during the January meeting that resulted in this year’s changes that the actions of fellow freeholders were not political. He said Democrats were trying to remove people who were “politically appointed” by Republicans to jobs that “bloated the budget and were fiscally irresponsible.”
If nothing else, what happened in 2012 and this year indicates the changes that often follow what happens when government falls under the control of different parties.
For Republicans, their control of Cumberland County government does not happen often. Republicans gained control of county government in 2012 for only about the third time in 40 years when Mary Gruccio was elected to the freeholder board. That gave Republicans a 4-3 majority.
November’s election returned Democrats to power when Long and Joseph Derella defeated Gruccio and another Republican incumbent, Thomas Sheppard. Democrats now hold a 5-2 majority on the freeholder board.
The appointments made by the freeholder board this month include:
* Willingboro, Burlington County, resident Jacqueline Jennings to run the county’s purchasing office.
* Bridgeton resident Theresa VanSant as head of the county’s senior bus program. VanSant was fired from her job with the county’s Cumberland Area Transit System by Republicans last year.
* Millville resident Craig Atkinson as the county’s human resources director.
* East Greenwich Township, Gloucester County, resident James Watson as the county’s economic development director.
Contact Thomas Barlas: