The nine-member county freeholder board convenes to pass countywide regulations and oversee county roads and facilities.
Although all nine freeholders were present for the ceremonial event on Jan. 3, Union City Freeholder and Mayor Brian Stack could not make the more official ceremony and was sworn in privately in his office before his trip to Washington D.C.
Likewise, Jersey City Freeholder Bill Braker did not join the crowd for his official swearing in on Jan. 6, but was sworn in later in the freeholder offices.
Partly because of the change of the county executive administration, the freeholders held a total of four public sessions in a week to handle their own reorganization as well as routine beginning-of-the-year business.
All nine freeholder incumbents had been re-elected in November, but the reorganization meeting saw a subtle shift as Freeholder Barry Dugan of Bayonne replaced Bill O'Dea as vice chairman of the board.
Freeholder Sal Vega of West New York was re-elected by the board as chairman. Tom Liggio was appointed pro-tempore. Maurice Fitzgibbons was designated the representative to the New Jersey Association of Counties, with Vega appointed first alternate to NJAC and newly restored County Administrator Abe Antun appointed second alternate.
During the Jan. 3 ceremonial swearing in, public officials from around the county, along with well-wishers, crowded the freeholders' chambers, with folding chairs installed in the hall to handle the overflow.
While Braker of Jersey City, in his brief speech, remained silent about the federal indictment that has accused him of allegedly taking bribes from a county contractor. He had previously maintained his innocence.
Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon of Jersey City, who has also been charged in connection with charges related to the guilty plea of former County Executive Robert Janiszewski, said in her speech that she believed she would be cleared of all wrongdoing. "The last couple of months have been among the most difficult in my life," she said, "and the next couple of months will continue to be tough. But because I believe in the justice system of the United States of America, I will soon be found innocent."
Vega made passing reference to the indictments in his speech, saying "the vast majority that serve this county are honorable people who obey the law."
While Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.) and Rep. Donald Payne (D-29th Dist.), were present for the ceremonial swearing in, Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.) was in Washington D.C. Numerous mayors from the county's 12 municipalities were on hand, but not Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham.
Along with routine beginning-of-the-year business, the freeholders were presented with a host of appointments to the board in a rush to fill many seats left vacant or with holdovers.
During the freeholder caucus meeting on Jan. 8, the freeholders were presented with a host of reappointments and appointments, with some previously prominent board members being replaced. The resolutions, to be voted on during the Jan. 9 freeholder meeting, included appointments to the Hudson County Mental Health Board, the Hudson County Board of Ethics and the Hudson County Community College Board of Trustees.
Generated out of the office of County Executive Tom DeGise, the resolutions were to appoint Carol Torturelli of Bayonne, Karen Fargo of Secaucus, and Monya McCarty and Michele Dupey of Jersey City to the Mental Health Board.
In another series of resolutions, Jennifer Jones of Jersey City, Doreen Gynn of Secaucus, Cecilia Lindenfelser of Kearny and Richard Evans of Hoboken were nominated to the Ethics Board.
As for the Hudson County Community College Board of Trustees, Edwin Duroy of Hoboken, Charles Epps of Jersey City, Joanne Koslakowsky of Bayonne and Elizabeth Spinelli of Jersey City were nominated for reappointment. Adrienne Sires of West New York was nominated to replace Rene Abreu (a Guttenberg-based developer who had been indicted as part of a federal investigation), and Kevin Sluka of Jersey City was nominated to replace Richard Myrlak. While Katia Stack (the wife of Union City Mayor and Freeholder Brian Stack) was nominated to replace Patricia Trujillo on the board, her term of office would come to an end in October.
Freeholder Brian Stack said he was bothered by the short term, adding that Union City was under-represented and when the city finally got an appointment, the term of office was for less than a year.
"This bothers me," he said. "Many of these appointments have terms that end in 2005."
Chief of Staff for the County Executive Office Bill Gaughan said he would look into the matter, but that some appointments had been made to fill out the unexpired terms of current officers.
"We will check to see if this is a typo," he said. "But there is no reason why we can't extend the term of office later."
Other appointments made at the reorganization meeting were: Jean Byrne of Kearny as clerk to the Board of Freeholders, Edward Florio of Hoboken as counsel, Wilfredo Ortiz II of Guttenberg as deputy counsel, and Anthony Amabile of Meadowlands Associates in Jersey City as communications and media consultant.