Pay still unsettled, Tucci settling into job

Photo by Ron Leir Mauro Tucci in the Belleville manager’s office.
Photo by Ron Leir
Mauro Tucci in the Belleville manager’s


He’s still waiting to find out important details … like how much he’ll be making and the hours he’ll be working … but that’s not stopping Mauro Tucci from showing up to work as Belleville’s newly named township manager.

Tucci, who was appointed to the job Jan. 12 by a 4-2 vote of the municipal governing body to replace Interim Manager Kevin Esposito, who resigned, told The Observer last week he expected to get the answers at a mayor/council session scheduled for Jan. 26.

Tucci, who is also a member of the Nutley Board of Township Commissioners, in charge of parks and recreation, said he’s been talking to a lot of Belleville officials to “get a good read on where we are.” Chief among his priorities, he said, is “getting a handle on our money situation. I’ve read the township’s most current audit and I will be having the auditor come in to chat. I also plan on having our health care provider in and some developers.”

Tucci said he’s also got personnel issues to deal with, based on department heads’ requests for new hirings and the like but he said he’ll make no decisions until he gets a better grip on the township’s financial position.

His appointment was opposed by Mayor Raymond Kimble and Councilman Kevin Kennedy and Esposito had recommended a Nutley attorney, Donald Rinaldi, for the job.

Kimble had proposed designating Township Clerk Kelly Cavanaugh to also serve as interim manager while the township conducted a search for a permanent replacement but he failed to get the council’s support.

Now, another township figure has surfaced in opposition to Tucci’s hiring. Mary Higgins, who was appointed in November as an alternate member of the Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment, showed up at the Municipal Building last Thursday with a sign protesting the move.

Higgins told The Observer she believes it’s a “conflict of interest to have a Nutley township commissioner sitting as the manager in Belleville. There’s too much cross-pollination between the towns as it is… Because the manager is in charge of hiring and firing, managing the budget, the position shouldn’t go to a political person because of the leverage he exerts. There’s too much possibility of favors being called in and jobs promised to people not qualified. … A lot of damage could be caused which we wouldn’t even hear about.”

Tucci said he’s well aware that not everyone in Belleville may be happy with his appointment but said that as someone who has invested some 40 years of his life in public service, he’s confident he can earn residents’ trust.

Some issues that he recognizes he’ll have to address soon include the disposition of the newly rebuilt Friendly House recreation facility and the continuing negotiations with Tulfra Realty, the designated redeveloper of the Roche property.

Asked about the status of Friendly House, Tucci said: “I hope we can get that open by spring. I believe we have to order furniture and equipment.” Asked for what programs the building would be used, Tucci said: “I need to hear everyone’s opinion first. After that, I’ll make that decision. You can be sure, there’ll be no waffling.”

As for the Roche situation, Tucci was reminded that the mayor and council, at its last meeting, failed to act on a resolution proposing to extend the time for arriving at a redeveloper’s agreement with Tulfra. “I realize that,” he said, “and I have spoken with the township attorney about that.” He didn’t elaborate.

Also undoubtedly on Tucci’s agenda is a newly issued Essex County Tax Board order to conduct a revaluation of all Belleville properties by the 2018 tax year and whether Belleville will appeal that order. Esposito said the reason he was stepping down as interim manager was to focus his attention as township assessor on the reval.

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