A human resources consultant from the payroll service firm PayChex will work with the town to develop comprehensive anti-discrimination/anti-harassment training for municipal employees and volunteers.
According to a resolution passed by the Town Council on June 22, the consultant will not be a salaried employee and will be paid no more than $34,000 annually. The consultant will not receive benefits.
The move came just weeks after the council announced that it will overhaul and strengthen the training programs currently offered to municipal employees and such volunteers as members of the Office of Emergency Management and the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department.
Seniors can get a $20 voucher for the farmer’s market.
Town officials have grappled with ways to limit exposure to lawsuits since losing a civil case brought by a gay couple in 2008. In their lawsuit, the men alleged that they endured two years of harassment from some of the firefighters assigned to Engine Co. 2 – harassment they said was reported to local police and other authorities. No criminal charges were filed in the matter, but three firefighters were implicated in police reports and court testimony.
In June 2008 a Hudson County Superior Court jury awarded the men $2.8 million in damages, plus another $2 million in legal fees, because the jury concluded the town hadn’t adequately protected their civil rights.
Following the loss of the lawsuit, the MEL and other insurers that paid out the jury award demanded that Secaucus improve its anti-harassment training for municipal volunteers. The requirement led to the creation of the 12-minute video, which is now mandatory viewing for all Secaucus volunteers.
Although paid employees receive a more in-depth and comprehensive training, Mayor Michael Gonnelli and members of his administration, who took office in January, have been critical of the anti-harassment training currently offered. They have also been critical of the town’s lack of an anti-discrimination policy, as is standard in most places of business.
“That leaves us very vulnerable to lawsuits,” said 1st Ward Town Councilman Robert Costantino last month. “And as a town that just lost a [multi-million dollar lawsuit], we want to limit the chance of that happening again.”
Earlier this year Secaucus began using PayChex for its payroll services. The company, Costantino explained last month, offers various human resource services to its clients at a reduced cost.
In addition to the new training, Town Attorney Anthony D’Elia has been working with the council to develop an anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. Farmer’s market debuts, flea market coming
June 9 marked the debut of the town’s first-ever farmer’s market, which will be held each Friday through October. The market, which was announced by Mayor Michael Gonnelli at the June 22 council meeting, will give residents an opportunity to purchase fresh, regionally grown fruit and produce.
“For anyone who isn’t familiar with these markets, they’re a great way to support local farmers while getting great quality vegetables and fruit, which a lot of people in town have been asking for,” the mayor said.
To help make the market more accessible to elderly residents, the mayor announced last week that vouchers worth $20 will be available to low-income seniors ages 62 and older this summer. For more information, call (201) 330-2034.
Since last year’s closure of the Stop & Shop at Mill Creek Mall, some residents have complained about the lack of a supermarket in town. They have specifically been critical of the perceived lack of places to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. The market should help fill this void.
The market will be set up in the parking lot of the Secaucus Public Library and Business Resource Center parking lot from 1 to 7 p.m.
The council also announced a town-wide flea market, scheduled for Saturday, July 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This event will be held at Secaucus High School.
Residents are invited to lease vending space and sell off gently-used items they no longer want.
As an added caveat, the mayor stated that “at the end of the day, anything you don’t sell, the town will cart away and dispose for you, if you want.”
Proceeds from vending space rentals will benefit the Secaucus Youth Alliance. – EAW