Howell Council OK’s Town Manager’s $195K Contract

Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan

  HOWELL – The Township Council voted to approve Township Manager Joseph Clark’s contract with a starting salary of $195,000.

  The township manager runs the day-to-day operations of the town. Clark’s tenure as township manager formally began on December 14, 2022, although he previously served as both acting and interim township manager starting last spring. For the five years prior, Clark was the Township’s in-house legal counsel.

  The employment agreement approved unanimously by the three council members present at the February 7 meeting and became retroactive to Clark’s start date as township manager.

  According to state law, the employment of the township manager is considered indefinite with specific parameters. Clark must give 60 days’ notice should he decide to resign voluntarily.

  Should the Township decide to terminate Clark’s employment, the Council must pass a resolution at least 30 days before its effective date stating the reasons for his removal. The Township Manager would then be suspended and entitled to a public hearing.

  The removal process might sound familiar to Howell residents as it’s how the lead position in local government became open in the first place. Clark stepped in when the governing body decided to terminate Brian Geoghegan in his role as township manager.

Joseph Clark (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Some of the other terms of the employment agreement with Clark include the following:

  • Annual reviews on or before the end of each calendar year. He will be entitled to the same raises provided to other employees in the Teamsters bargaining unit.
  • Council maintains the option of conducting a performance review associated with a salary change at any time.
  • Township health benefits with personal contributions.
  • Continued enrollment in the Township’s deferred comp and retirement savings plans. Enrollment in the state pension plan should Clark become eligible.
  • Life insurance provided by the Township could later be changed to a policy offered by the state pension plan.
  • Thirty-five days of paid time off per calendar year; up to 15 days of which can be carried over each year.
  • Sell back of up to 10 days annually of paid time off – with the option of payment of unused accumulated leave upon resignation or termination without cause.
  • Time off for professional development, including CLE (Continuing Legal Education) and events such as the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
  • Up to $5,000 in reimbursement costs for professional development and conferences, including those associated with Clark’s law license.

  Howell’s first ordinance of the year updated salary ranges for certain officers and employees of the local government. The Township Manager’s minimum range stayed at $95,000 and saw a maximum range increase from $160,000 to $200,000. The maximum salary range for the Chief of Police is the highest in the Township, moving from $238,772 to $249,000.

  “I couldn’t be more delighted that council made the decision to hire from within,” said Clark. “So, I can continue to work with the qualified professionals of our team across all levels.”

  Two prior council members spoke at the recent council meeting and reiterated the reasons Clark was moved into the position without consideration of an outside search.

  “There was no reason to do a search,” said former Deputy Mayor Pamela Richmond. “We had someone right here in front of us working hard every day, who lives here in Howell, cares about Howell.”

  Former Councilwoman Suzanne Brennan was appointed to Council to fill a vacancy left by Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo. During her one year tenure, Brennan said she saw things change when Clark took over and demonstrated his passion for getting things done.

  “I have to say the difference between when I started on the governing body and when I left,” said Brennan. “The trajectory skyrocketed – and it was under his leadership and the team that he was building.”

  New Jersey state laws provide council members with broad discretion in the selection of a municipal manager. Accordingly, they may be chosen solely on the basis of their executive and administrative qualifications with special reference to the candidate’s actual experience or knowledge of accepted practices in the position.

  Nonetheless, some Howell residents still maintain the governing body should have interviewed other candidates in addition to Clark. While not questioning the township manager’s abilities to do the job, the new focus is on the terms of his employment agreement.

  Geoghegan was at the top of the pay scale when he left at $160,000. Clark’s salary of $195,000 is a $35,000 increase over the last manager. Additionally, had Clark stayed on as Township Attorney, the maximum range for that position is set at $155,172.