West Wildwood Chris Fox

West Wildwood Mayor Chris Fox (center) and commissioner Scott Golden sit next to the empty chair of commissioner Cornelius Maxwell, who recently resigned as a commissioner of West Wildwood. 

WEST WILDWOOD — The two remaining members of the Borough Commission have not talked about replacing Commissioner Cornelius Maxwell, who resigned last month, or Business Administrator Chris Ridings, whose last day is Thursday.

“We have not discussed it,” Mayor Christopher Fox said during Wednesday’s commission meeting, after residents asked what will happen with each position.

Both resignations happened in the wake of $24,900 in ethics fines levied against Fox by the state. Fox, who subsequently lost his job as administrator in neighboring Wildwood, has vowed to appeal the ethics violations with the Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board.

Ridings resigned late last month because his wife, a Methodist minister, has been transferred and they are moving. He has taken a job in Burlington County, he said.

Maxwell resigned last month without making a public comment, leaving just Fox and Commissioner Scott Golden to govern. Maxwell has not returned a call for comment, but officials have said he resigned for personal reasons.

Borough Solicitor Marcus Karavan said the commissioners could replace Maxwell or wait until the election in November.

But after the meeting, Karavan said he recommended they replace the commissioner soon.

“In a Walsh Act municipality with only three people, I’d like to have a full board,” Karavan said.

The Walsh Act created the nonpartisan commission form of government, with three commissioners for small communities and five for larger ones.

Ridings took the administrator job in 2011, he said. He was hired by former Mayor Herbert Frederick.

“I would like to thank everyone in this room and the community,” said Ridings. “I have enjoyed my time here.”

Resident Joe Kline said Ridings has done a great job for the borough but questioned whether the municipality is large enough to require an administrator. It is just 0.3 square miles and has about 600 residents.

“Most (smaller) boroughs do not have an administrator,” said Kline. “The clerk and you guys (would) do that work.”

“We haven’t talked about it,” said Fox. “I can tell you from 1996 to 2008, we did not have an administrator. Mayor Frederick hired an administrator.”

But he said government is getting more complicated and it has been helpful to have Ridings on the job.

Residents also asked for an update on a lawsuit against the borough. Former Class II police Officer Jeremy Mawhinney is suing the borough, alleging among other things that he was fired for writing tickets to political allies of Fox, and he was directed to target residents who may not vote for the mayor in future elections.

“We went to mediation and it did not resolve, and presently we are in discovery process,” Karavan said.

The case may go to trial, he said.

The Local Finance Board levied fines against Fox in April, in a 21-page report. The violations became public in May.

Many of the alleged ethics violations are related to actions Fox took as mayor that benefited police Chief Jacqueline Ferentz, with whom he lives.

The tiny borough has a budget of about $2.9 million a year. It is paying Ferentz $5,000 a month for 200 months, and her lawyer about $18,000 a month for 42 months, after Ferentz won a $1.7 million jury award in a lawsuit alleging mistreatment by Frederick.

The borough’s insurance company refused to pay the award, saying the borough — by then under Fox — had not properly defended itself in the case.

The borough is appealing JIF’s refusal to pay in court.

Meanwhile, the borough has put a notice on its website that the deadline for filing nominating petitions to run for Maxwell’s unexpired term in the Nov. 5 general election is 4 p.m. Sept. 3.

Nominating petitions for those who wish to run for Maxwell’s seat are in the Borough Clerk’s Office at 701 W. Glenwood Ave., and may be picked up 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, according to the borough notice.

For more information, call the clerk’s office at 609-522-4845.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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