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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Acting Fairfield Township CFO was fired for improperly paying herself the CFO salary instead of $12.75 per hour.

At its public meeting on February 3, 2015, the Township of Fairfield (Cumberland County) passed Resolution 62-2015 that terminated Keyanna Jones' employment with the Township.  The actual decision to terminate Jones was made during a January 20, 2015 meeting, the minutes of which are available at the above link.  According to those minutes, the decision to fire Jones was "based upon the analysis and decision found by [attorney] Steven S. Glickman" who investigated disciplinary charges against Jones and recommended that she be fired.

An Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request caused disclosure of Glickman's January 6, 2015 decision in the matter.  According to the decision, Jones attended a disciplinary hearing on December 19, 2014 to respond to charges of insubordination, conduct unbecoming a public employee, official misconduct, misuse of public property, failure to perform duties and "potential criminal charges possibly including theft, theft of public funds and/or official misconduct."

Glickman first dismissed the insubordination, misuse of public property and failure to perform duties charges after finding that there was no basis upon which those charges could be sustained.  He also dismissed the "potential criminal charges" because of want of jurisdiction.  He then merged the remaining charges into one charge alleging that "Jones paid herself at the unauthorized rate of the Chief Financial Officer's position." 

Glickman found that Jones started her employment with Fairfield in February 2014 as a part-time Land Use Board secretary and was on May 14, 2014 told by Acting Administrator Jacqueline Green that she was to be hired as Assistant Director of Finance and be paid $12.75 per hour.  Along with her other job with the Land Use Board, Jones would be working full time and thus eligible for employee benefits.  Jones countered with an offer to work the position for $17.75 per hour for 30 hours per week, but it appears that Jones ultimately accepted the position at $12.75 per hour. 

According to Glickman's decision, the Township's payroll record showed that Jones was paid during May 2014 "at the rate of the Township's former Chief Financial Officer (CFO)."  This rate of pay, presumably, is much more than $12.75 per hour and Jones being paid at this rate is central to the disciplinary charges against her.

Jones testified at her hearing that then Fairfield Mayor Viola T. Hughes offered her the CFO's position on April 17, 2014 and introduced her to the public as the Acting CFO on April 26, 2014.  She said that the Township had received state approval to allow her to work as the CFO on an acting basis provided that she obtained her state certification for that position within one year. 

Hughes, who also testified that she told Jones that she would receive the higher CFO salary only after she passed the CFO certification exam and that "she specifically told Jones that her hourly wage would remain at $12.75 while she was training for the CFO position." 

Glickman, in making his decision, heavily relied on Jones having not even attempted to contradict Hughes' testimony.  He wrote that Jones' "'silence' on certain issues speaks volumes" and ruled that Hughes' uncontradicted testimony "must be credited."  Since Jones did not deny that she was supposed to receive $12.75 per hour until she passed the CFO exam and also did not deny that "she was responsible for giving the authorization to payroll to compensate her at the CFO's salary rate." Based on this, Glickman ruled that the charges against Jones were sustained.

Turning to the proper quantum of discipline to be imposed, Glickman found that Jones betrayed the trust that the Township Administration and Fairfield residents had placed in her.  Glickman found that "while it is impossible to conclude that Jones intended to defraud the Township, there is no disputing the uncontroverted evidence that Jones intended to grant herself the CFO's salary contrary to the direction of Mayor Hughes; without Township authorization to do so; and without providing the Township's Administration with notice of same."  Given these circumstances, Glickman ruled that Jones be terminated.  He wrote: "Jones betrayed the public trust for her own benefit, and to return Jones to any position of employment with the Township would send the wrong message to other township employees."

On November 28, 2016, after I first received Glickman's decision, I wrote to Cumberland County First Assistant Prosecutor Harold B. Shapiro and furnished him with a copy of Glickman's findings.  I wrote in my letter to Shapiro that Glickman's findings "could support or at least suggest criminal charges against Jones [so] I am reporting this to you in case no one else has already reported it."  To date, I have received neither an acknowledgment nor a response from the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office.

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