By Bill Cleary
The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) hearing for former Gloucester City Municipal Clerk Paul Kain concluded Tuesday, February 1 with the judge requiring written closing arguments in 30 days.
Kain was fired in December 2009 for being absent from work without permission for more then 120 days. His last day of work was July 10, 2009. Because Kain had tenure he had the right to request a hearing before the DCA. The case was heard by Judge Joseph Matone from the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
Three months ago Kain made application to the DCA to be reinstated immediately to his former job but that was denied. In an attempt to settle the case between Kain and the City there was a mediation session before Judge Matone on December 21. According to sources Kain was offered a cash settlement of $90,000 but he turned the offer down.
Prior to the December hearing City Solicitor John Kearney said, “In light of the risk of litigation as well as the expense the City put together the settlement package that Mr. Kain’s lawyer had demanded. The funds were coming from the City as well as insurance sources. Mr Kain then apparently changed his mind. As the dispute is continuing I do not want to discuss the details as it may have a detrimental effect on future proceedings.The bottom line here is that the law requires us to go through a long expensive process to remove a tenured employee. And that is what we are doing. If it costs money to achieve certainty that must be considered. No money is spent by the City lightly without due consideration.”
The City is represented by Christine P. O’Hearn of the Brown and Connery Law Firm, Westmont because the City Solicitor might have been called to testify.
Asked to comment about the February 1 hearing Kearney said, “Paul represented himself. The City’s case was job abandonment and City Administrator Jack Lipsett was the only witness. Paul did try to ask questions that seemed to indicate that his argument was that he was fired for political reasons but the Court did not allow any questions other than those dealing with job abandonment. Ms. O'Hern did ask Paul if he wanted to discuss settlement but he rebuffed her.
“The City is very confident that the case of job abandonment by Mr. Kain was clearly proven and that Mr Kain's tenure status should be removed.”
Kain began his employment with the City in 1991 as a assistant municipal clerk. Prior to that job he worked in the trades. Approximately 12 years later he was promoted to Municipal Clerk. In 2006 he was named City Administrator by former Mayor Thomas Kilcourse. With that new title Kain’s salary was increased from $65,000 to $95,000. He also worked as a part-time Township Clerk for Washington Township, Burlington County, at a salary of $13,000.
When the James administration took over in 2007 they found that the City lost several million dollars in state and federal grants during the time Kain was administrator because the applications were not filed on time. In December 2008 Kain was removed from his duties as City Administrator and replaced by the present administrator, Jack Lipsett. And his salary was reduced to $65,000.
In 2009 Kain was cited by Mayor William James for insubordination, failure to perform duties and deliberate delay or restriction of work effort. The mayor had asked for records regarding requests made for information in certain e-mails by interested parties. At a hearing held April 23, 2009 Kain explained that the information could be given after fees are paid, and that he felt that the mayor was asking as a private citizen.
The fees were paid and then the information was turned over.
“There was no insubordination from the ‘keeper of records,’ Kain and his attorney said.
Kain was found guilty of the charges and received a letter of reprimand.
In December 2009 Mayor and Council passed a resolution to terminate his employment because he had been absent for over 120 days without an excuse. Following the passage of the resolution his salary was stopped but Kain continued to receive full health benefits until the end of that year.
Kain was contacted via email for a statement on the February 1 proceedings. He did not respond to that request.