Where Is Councilman Jeffries?

Stafford Town Hall (Photo by Jason Allentoff)
Councilman Steven Jeffries (Photo courtesy of Stafford Township)

STAFFORD – Residents questioned the lack of attendance of Councilman Steven Jeffries, who has missed several Township Council meetings because of work responsibilities. The councilman had said that there is a political impact if he does step down.

Resident Joe Mazzola brought it up at the Jan. 10 council meeting. Jeffries was absent from that one as well.

“We never seem to have a complete council. I don’t think it’s fair,” Mazzola said.

According to township records, Jeffries is paid $7,600 a year for being a councilman. He does not receive benefits.

Mayor John Spodofora said that the law is quite clear on the case. If a council member’s job pulls him out of the area, it is an excused absence. In this case, his job has him working out of South Dakota. If he did not have a reason to be away, and he still missed meetings, then it would be an unexcused absence and the council might have to take action.

Spodofora said after the meeting that Jeffries brings a lot to the council, and is working for the town even if he is not present for meetings.

“Every piece of business, he interacts with,” he said. The packets that council members receive before meetings are sent to him.

There are certain demands of his job that he did not expect when he was running for office, he said.

“I don’t feel any need to take action at this time. It’s not like Mr. Jeffries is not active,” he said.

Business Administrator James Moran, after the meeting, said that council members are at-large, which means that Jeffries does not represent a particular section of town.

Jeffries, being interviewed while in South Dakota, said that there are political ramifications to his stepping down.

Many Stafford Republicans, himself included, have tried to distance themselves from the Ocean County GOP, run by attorney George Gilmore, citing that it is just a political machine. Jeffries said that if he were to step down, the county GOP would suggest three people to be his replacement. The council would have to choose from these three who answer to the county GOP rather than the local GOP. Therefore, it is more about keeping control in Stafford rather than the county.

“If I resign, they still don’t have someone they voted for to represent them,” he said.

After the primary election, he said he was offered a job doing consulting work for the ethanol industry in South Dakota. He thought it would be a couple of weeks, but it turned out to be longer. “It is very time consuming and also very lucrative,” he said.

He acknowledged that he does look through the paperwork that all council members receive, and that he does discuss the issues with seated members of the governing body. He gives his opinion on the issues at hand.

Jeffries said that he has two years left on his term. In the meantime, he is working on getting someone else to work with him in the next three to six months that will reduce his need to be in South Dakota as often.

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Chris Lundy is News Editor at Micromedia. He has covered Ocean County news and features in various publications since 2003. Lundy worked for Gannett with articles in The Beacon, Observer and Asbury Park Press. He's also written for the Community Connection, Patch and ShoreBeat.