Editorial:He's doing a bad job filling Jersey posts
Originally appeared in the
Courier News on
April 8, 2002 Monday
At what point does a series of troubling personnel decisions become a trend? And at what point does that trend become worrisome?
There have been enough concerns about some of Gov. James E. McGreevey's choices for high-level positions in his administration, and enough concerns about the way he has mishandled some of these selections, that it is fair to at least raise a red flag and ask this question:
Can New Jerseyans trust McGreevey to pick the right people around him to govern New Jersey the way it should be governed?
Any new governor makes countless decisions about jobs in a new administration, and certainly most of McGreevey's have been quietly received and accepted. Problems have occurred only with a relative handful of positions so far. But those problems have been significant ones - and the way McGreevey has virtually thumbed his nose at opposition may be the biggest concern of all.
Consider some of the more high-profile controversies:
That McGreevey is rewarding people with whom he has worked and is familiar is no surprise. He has that right. But collectively, these personnel tempests are troubling. In two instances -- Cipel and Chugh -- McGreevey has created new highly paid positions with no specific duties. In two instances - Santiago and Cipel - McGreevey has circled around public and legislative resistance, setting up alternative posts for his appointees from which they could take on similar responsibilities if the first choice failed. In all three cases, there is an element of defiance from the governor, an attitude that he won't be denied by confirmation processes, that he need not defend his choices to lawmakers or the public.
- Joseph Santiago, McGreevey's nominee for state police superintendent, brought with him a checkered past, with an assault conviction and tax problems dotting his record. In the face of Senate resistance, McGreevey stood firm and named Santiago to a "temporary" post with the state attorney general's office overseeing state police. If Santiago had not been confirmed, he still was in place to influence the department.
- McGreevey appointed 33-year-old Golan Cipel, an Israeli national and former campaign aide, as his counterterrorism adviser while offering nothing publicly to suggest Cipel had any credentials for the job. Cipel did not require confirmation, but the uproar forced McGreevey to reassign Cipel -- to a vague special counsel's position with the governor's office, with no specific responsibilities, at the same $110,000 salary Cipel would have received as security adviser. Cipel can now continue to advise McGreevey on security issues.
- Roger Chugh, another former campaign aide like Cipel, was named to a top State Department post with no specific job description, at a salary of $85,000. Chugh became the source of embarrassment after reports circulated about his personal Web site, on which there appeared false information about his job with the state. Republicans also circulated clippings from Indian newspapers with similarly false claims about Chugh. The site was taken down, and is now under construction.
But he does need to defend them, especially amid a budget crisis and hundreds of layoffs of state workers. How should those workers feel now watching Cipel and Chugh, for example, pull down top salaries to do, well, what?
These well-publicized controversies are, individually, cause for concern. But as a trend, they are downright alarming. Citizens and legislators should be alert for similar problems in the future. And the governor should not make such mistakes again if he wants to hold on to his credibility and public confidence.
Gov. James E. McGreevey's mishandling of several job appointments raises questions about his willingness to find the best people for the right positions in his administration.