Green said he is covered under a state provision which grants wardens tenure if they have served more than three years.
But in terminating Green, officials from the offices of Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise claim that Green does not qualify for tenure despite running the corrections department for almost a decade, partly because he switched from being the warden to the director in 1997 - and that the director serves at the pleasure of the county executive.
Green was hired to run the jail in 1995 after former Warden and County Administrator Geoff Perselay left to take up work in the private sector. In 1997, Green changed titles from warden to director, after a brief takeover of operations by the state during an investigation of the correctional facility.
"I never stopped being warden during that takeover," Green said. "I was reassigned to [then director of Public Safety Glenn] Cunningham's office," said Green.
Several freeholders have urged Green to officially apply for a hearing to have the case presented.
"Every employee is entitled to a hearing if he requests it," said Freeholder Bill O'Dea.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Louis Manzo - who is currently running for mayor of Jersey City - has stepped into the fray, issuing a letter to Devon Brown, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, protesting the firing, calling it "sudden and arbitrary." He said because the greatest number of prisoners in the facility come from Jersey City, Manzo believes the firing will have a negative impact on Jersey City and its taxpayers.
"Mr. Green has been denied his opportunity to make his case before the Board of Chosen Freeholders, despite the support of the three Freeholders who represent Jersey City - William O'Dea, Ray Velasquez and Jeffrey Dublin," Manzo argued, asking the state to intervene.
County terminated him
Green received a letter early in September from County Administrator Abe Antun terminating him.
In the letter dated Sept. 3, 2004, Antun said, "As I explained to you in my office, you serve at the pleasure of the county executive, and a discussion has been made to go in a different direction with regard to the leadership within the Corrections Department. I would advise you to continue using your sick days until they expire on Oct. 1, 2004 and retire, as you previously agreed. You will be terminated if you choose to ignore my advice and return to work."
The conflict centers on two issues: whether or not Green has tenure and if he is entitled to a hearing.
"I don't think he can be terminated without notice and a hearing," said O'Dea.
Green, however said his agreement to retire hinged on the county providing indemnification to protect him from the impact of several lawsuits won against him during his term as director. While the awards in the suits filed by staff members were relatively minor, Green would also be saddled with the cost of legal fees, his own as well as those who sued him. Indemnification would protect him against these costs.
In his letter to Green and stated to several freeholders, Antun said the county would raise additional issues if Green sought to fight the termination.
Serves at the pleasure of the county executive?
Although representatives for the administration did not return calls on the matter, several officials said tenure must be approved by the freeholders, and no vote was ever taken granting Green tenure.
Several freeholders, however, said the vote is less important than the term of office, and that by putting the years, Green qualifies. But Green's switching from warden to director prior to his getting his third year as warden could mean he does not.
Green, however, said he would not have taken the title change if this disqualified him from tenure, and that he had sought a legal opinion from the county counsel at the time of the switch.
Green's fears for loss of tenure, however, was relieved by 1997 letter issued by then Deputy County Council Mark E. Morchel, who said the change of title from warden to director "will not jeopardize or prejudice any claims or rights you may have regarding your past and future county employment."
Green had been reluctant to sign the necessary paperwork if it risked his claims on tenure. But Morchel wrote, "The county requests that you sign the form merely as an administratively mandated act which will not be viewed as any type of admission or waiver of rights on your part."
When contacted last week about the letter, Morchel said the letter was part of an agreement between Green and the county.
Green said he had agreed not to sue the county over false statements made during the state takeover of the county jail in 1996.
"A lot of people said that I did a lot of things wrong, but when it was over, the state found I had done nothing wrong," Green said.
The county administration has agued that Green's position as director falls into a specific category not typical of most other county employees that allows the county executive to release him without reason. The county executive, for instance, can release the county administrator and the county counsel as well, if he chooses to.
Insiders in the administration said Green is a holdover from a previous administration and DeGise has the right to name his own candidate to the position as director of corrections. This would not be true if Green was still warden.
As for the hearing, O'Dea said Green has the right to bring his case before the freeholders, who can, by a majority vote, override the county executive's decision. Green would then have the option of having a public or private hearing.