Town names attorney and director of finance

Votes to fill both
Old Bridge positions
were unanimous

Staff Writer

Town names attorney
and director of finance
Votes to fill both
Old Bridge positions
were unanimous
Staff Writer

Jerome ConveryJerome Convery

OLD BRIDGE — After less than a month as the township’s deputy counsel, local lawyer Jerome Convery has been promoted to lead the municipality’s in-house legal department.

Convery, who had been nominated by Mayor Jim Phillips to lead the township’s department of law, received the unanimous approval of the Township Council on Monday night to complete his rapid ascent to his new post. Just eight of the nine members were present

In a separate unanimous vote, the council approved the Democratic mayor’s nomination of Himanshu Shah as the township’s director of finance.

Shah will continue to wear two hats; he is also filling in as acting business administrator. While selection of a permanent administrator is reported to be in progress, Shah will continue to perform the duties of both jobs until a new administrator is hired.

As finance director, Shah oversees the township’s income and expenses and prepares annual municipal budgets. He was first hired for that position by Phillips’ Republican predecessor, Mayor Barbara Cannon, who left office on Dec. 31.

On Jan. 1, Phillips named Shah to temporarily serve as business administrator to fill the office vacated by former administrator Alayne Shepler. Shepler left Old Bridge on Dec. 31 to serve in that same capacity in neighboring Manalapan Township.

Convery, who also last served as the attorney for the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, replaces former Township Attorney William Ruggierio, who resigned March 2 to become business administrator in Mount Olive Township, Morris County. Convery pledged, in deference to Ward 5 Councilman Richard Greene, to work a full 40-hour week on the township’s legal matters, yet he will continue to maintain a private law practice at his Route 516 office.

Prior to the vote, Greene, a Republican, questioned Convery as to whether he would be able to serve Old Bridge full-time and avoid scheduling conflicts with his private practice.

Greene also asked Convery to promise that he will not conduct any outside work while on the township’s time clock.

In reply, Convery indicated that his outside work will consist of matters related to wills and to appearances in municipal courts.

While advising the council that he will also continue to serve as attorney for the Planning Board in neighboring Monroe Township, Convery said he has given up his matrimonial and personal injury practices.

"Old Bridge is my primary client," Convery said.

All outside work would be conducted outside township hall, Convery told Greene.

Should he not be working on township business during the regular weekday hours, Convery promised to make up any time owed to Old Bridge.

As township attorney, his schedule will include work on many nights, particularly during council meetings, Convery told Greene.

"This is not just a full-time, 9-to-5 job," Convery said. "I will do everything I can to fulfill the terms of the [township’s] ordinance.

On Jan. 26, the council revised an ordinance that prohibited its in-house attorney from having an outside practice while on the municipal payroll. The amended ordinance allows the township attorney to maintain a "limited" private practice instead.

A clause in that same amendment indicates that none of those clients should have any business interests with Old Bridge.

In January, Phillips had asked the Democrat-controlled council to change the original ordinance which had been crafted during Cannon’s administration.

The terms of the existing ordinance could discourage lawyers in private practice from seeking the township position, Phillips contended.

Convery began in his capacity as the township’s deputy director of law on Feb. 10, one day after he was hired by Ruggierio.

In an earlier interview, Ruggierio noted that hiring Convery to assist him was essential to the expected succession.

Democratic Councilman Edward Testino congratulated both Convery and Shah and praised Phillips for his selections.

"Both gentlemen are excellent choices by the mayor," Testino said. "I look forward to working with them."

From 1984 to 1988, Convery served as the township attorney under former Democratic Mayor Russell Azzarello, who is now the executive director of the local Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

Convery also has served as an assistant prosecutor in Middlesex County and is a recognized expert in land use law, Phillips has said.