Dems question hiring of Ceberio firm

NORTH ARLINGTON – 

Last Thursday, North Arlington Borough Council made it official: By a 4-2 vote, they voted on a resolution to hire RCM Ceberio LLC as a redevelopment and public relations consultant at $2,500 a month, including all expenses and travel, from March 1 to Dec. 31, 2015.

The council’s two Democrats – Al Granell and Tom Zammatore – said they voted against it because the hiring procedure was “flawed” and lacked “sufficient transparency.”

The contract awarded the Wayne firm, headed by former N.J. Meadowlands Commission executive director Robert Ceberio, calls for RCM Ceberio to implement a three-pronged plan:

• “Prepare an economic development inventory of potential sites in the borough,

• Monitor commercial uses and commercial tax ratables,

• Take necessary initiatives to attract businesses, which will make a major contribution to the economy of North Arlington.”

The firm’s contract says that the real estate inventory “will include vacant or underutilized properties and commercial properties, categorized according to their adaptability to various types of business, professional and industrial enterprises.”

Additionally, the firm is charged with working with borough elected and appointed officials to devise “land use and redevelopment opportunities” and prepare formal solicitations to prosective developers.

As part of that effort, the firm is to get public input on potential projects, work with state and federal agencies to promote local development prospects, assist developers in preparing the submitting applications to expedite relevant approvals, aid the borough in preparing economic development grants and document all potential real estate development opportunities.

Meanwhile, Granell griped that the borough circumvented “normal governmental procedure” by failing to have circulated a Request For Proposal for a redevelopment consultant.

“This is not an emergency hire. So why is the council being pressured into hiring this firm at this time?” Granell said.

Zammatore said that, “there was no advance notice given” of a presentation that Ceberio made to the council in a closed session held Feb. 26, “nor prior disclosure of the role of [former borough Mayor Len] Kaiser in the Ceberio firm.

“We had no time to prepare or evaluate [Ceberio’s] credentials or to define his duties. … I felt the process should be opened to other applicants and the most qualified candidate selected for the job.”

Granell questioned Ceberio’s capability “to boost small town development” and suggested that the firm’s hiring was premature since the proposed borough redevelopment board has yet to be formed. “The borough … should allow [the board] to meet and begin to lay out goals for redevelopment and a strategy,” he said.

Mayor Joseph Bianchi has said he plans to appoint Ceberio chairman of the redevelopment board whose eight members will be a combination of council members and the public.

As for the firm’s public relations responsibilities, Zammatore noted that RCM Ceberio failed to submit a Request For Qualifications – as two other firms did – that the borough had requested in December. (No action was taken by the borough after the Dec. 18 submission deadline.)

“The mayor and council majority are doing an end run around the proper hiring processes … and they want to force the hiring of a company to do public relations that has no documented experience in that area,” he added.

Ceberio has said that he has performed public relations work for the mayor’s office in Secaucus while employed there.

The Observer Staff