A Bumpy Transition in Dover

Dover

DOVER – Adam Cruz, the business administrator in Trenton, has been hired to a similar position in this Morris County town.

Cruz, who was hired Wednesday night, will earn $220,000 a year, reportedly $20,000 more than he did in Trenton.

James Dodd is still in the first six months of his second tenure as mayor, and such hires are to be expected.
But as is often the case in politics, they don’t always go smoothly.

The previous administrator, BettyLou DeCroce, a one-time Republican assemblywoman in LD-26, is threatening to sue the town, claiming her firing was improper.

DeCroce was a holdover from the previous administration of Mayor Carolyn Blackman.

Dover is a Democratic town, but DeCroce has had wide administrative experience as township clerk in Roxbury and later, a senior position in the state Department of Community Affairs.

Dodd, who lost to Blackman in 2019, won the job again in 2023, a victory assured when he triumphed in last year’s Democratic primary. No Republican challenged Dodd last fall.

Dodd harshly criticized the Blackman administration for incompetence, but upon assuming office in January, he kept DeCroce as administrator.

Things then went “off the rails.”

A tort claim filed on DeCroce’s behalf traced the problem to the administrator’s reluctance to place the police chief on administrative leave after the chief’s conduct at a February council meeting.

The claim notes various interactions between DeCroce and Dodd, who wanted to put the chief on leave. All this culminated on March 28 when the claim says DeCroce was told she was being terminated.

After that, the claim notes that the mayor and council – most of whom are Dodd supporters – made “defamatory statements”  regarding DeCroce’s “experience, job performance and character.”

The tort claim seeks $15 million in damages.

That figure has to be taken lightly. Actions of this type are generally settled, if they are settled at all, for much less than the original figure.

Dodd hasn’t been shy about firing back.

Here is the salient part of his statement:

“The tort claims notice from the former administrator is entirely baseless and contains false allegations against the town and me. The tort claims notice is nothing less than an attempted money grab by a public official who presided over herself obtaining an unearned $60,000 raise to bring her salary over $240,000 per year, making her one of the highest-paid administrators of any town this size throughout the State of New Jersey for a part-time position, which is how she and the prior administration classified her title in the state pension system.”

And he pledged to vigorously defend the town’s position.

In line with the current antipathy among most Dover officials toward DeCroce, it was pointed out at Wednesday’s council meeting that Cruz – the new administrator – will earn about $20,000 less a year than DeCroce did.

 

 

 

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