Manager Stephen J. Bonanni Sr. announced via press release on Tuesday morning, Jan. 10 that he's retiring after almost 33 years of service to the township. He will also step down from his post as director of public works.
His retirement becomes effective the beginning of February.
"I always wanted to retire at 55 years old, but in order to help the township through these tough economic times, I offered to stay longer and accept the position of acting township manager at the urging of council," Bonanni said in the release. "I was asked to resolve numerous outstanding issues that needed to be addressed involving various contractual negotiations and projects."
Bonanni was named acting township manager last year after the council removed last January. Council later voted to extend Bonanni's term as manager through the end of
"Council asked me to accept a one-year extension, and I did so because I felt I could bring stability to the township since two major department heads were leaving or considering leaving," Bonanni said, referring to former Chief Financial Officer Jill Gougher, who left for a job in Stone Harbor and was replaced by Marilyn Dolcy, and former Township Clerk Lisa Tilton. "I now believe these positions have been filled by excellent employees.
"After careful consideration, I feel that by retiring now, two and a half years after I wanted to retire, my salary can be used to potentially save other employee positions in the police or public works departments should reductions in staff be required."
“We asked him to bring some stabilization to the employees and negotiate deals and he did that,” Mayor Don Purdy said. “He got them back to a five-day work week.
“He put a lot of time in. We asked him to stick around, and now he wants to retire and spend some time with his kids. Galloway will move on.”
“Remember, he didn’t come to us; we came to him,” Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola said. “He was the most qualified person for the job. He had an innate understanding of Galloway Township. He was instrumental in helping get people back to work.”
Purdy said there are a few candidates under consideration for the position of township manager. If none of the candidates are the right fit, the township would then place an advertisement seeking candidates.
Coppola said the township will be looking for someone with excellent integrity, ethics and an understanding of the rules and regulations of township government.
“This decision will affect the future of Galloway Township,” Coppola said.
Bonanni named Kevin McDowell as his recommendation for director of public works.
Bonanni has come under fire in recent months.
Bonanni suspended former Township Clerk Lisa Tilton in June, a suspension that led to an eventual agreement between Tilton and the township for Tilton’s resignation. Tilton has claimed that the township has since violated that agreement and has filed two separate tort claim notices against the township, including one based on various counts of invasion of privacy, slander and libel, in which members of council and Bonanni were named.
He has also been the subject of numerous inquiries from gallowaytwpnews.com publisher Harry Scheeler over the past few months. Due to Scheeler’s investigations, the state has determined that Bonanni improperly appointed Karen Bacon Acting Township Clerk from June 13 to Oct. 4 of last year, and he took issue with Bonanni's use of a township cell phone to make personal calls. Bonanni has since began using a personal cell phone.
Scheeler also discovered that current Township Clerk Kimberley Hodsdon had never been sworn in. She has since been sworn in.
Bonanni said these recent events are not "part of the job as a public official."
“I want to spend time with my family especially my wife, children and grandson,” Bonanni said. “I had planned to retire when I turned 55.”
Solicitor Michael Blee did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about how Bonanni's retirement would affect pending litigation in which he is involved.
There were plenty of positive things Bonanni did for the township while he was manager as well.
In his statement, Bonanni discussed his role in the settlement of three union contracts, including Local 676, Local 210 and Local 68.
"These settlements involved a possible liability of over $600,000, which was resolved with contracts eliminating this furlough liability, a zero and one percent raise, respectively, over two years, and the acceptance of up to 12 furlough days in 2012," Bonanni said. "Under my direction, the township also successfully negotiated four inter local agreements."
According to Bonanni, these agreements included:
* Mullica Emergency Dispatching resulting in a savings of over $50,000;
* IT services with Absecon City savings up to $15,000;
* Fleet Maintenance Supervisor Savings with the local school system; and
* Sharing of Fleet Maintenance Supervisor savings of up to $35,000.
He also referred to the change in the township prescription plans saving a "potential of over $100,000," the new sign at the entrance to the Garden State Parkway, two applications for open space funding for properties from Atlantic County, savings from natural gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel bids and the refunding of old debt for a net savings of over $140,000.
Councilman Jim Gorman reiterared it was a job he was asked to do by council at a time when he was preparing to retire.
“He stayed on a little longer than he anticipated,” Councilman Jim Gorman said. “Too many times, people wait until it’s too late. I hope he enjoys a long and healthy retirement.”
Gorman said he believes the next manager will face the same challenges Bonanni has to this point, including getting the situation with numerous under control.
“It’ll be a clean slate,” Gorman said.
“He's worked real hard for the township for a number of years,” said Councilman Brian Tyrrell, the council's newest member. “I think Steve's been looking forward to his retirement. I hope that he enjoys his retirement.”
"I have dedicated my career to the township, and have been honored to be able to serve the residents of this great township by enhancing the quality of life in areas such as health, welfare and safety," Bonanni said. "I would like to thank all the township residents, employees and volunteers for your continued support over the last 33 years.
"I loved working for Galloway. The residents and employees made the job so rewarding. I hope Galloway residents will remember me as someone who cared about them. Someone who was instrumental in enhancing their quality of life. Health-sewer and water extensions. Safety-traffic lights/road improvements. I always put the residents first."