Crabb, Vohden, Mudrick appoint crony to top job
Earlier this year, Sussex County Human Services Administrator Stephen Gruchacz, aged 67, was telling people that he was all set to retire. Many believed that Gruchacz would be the fifth top county bureaucrat to hand in his resignation in the aftermath of the county's solar debacle.
Instead, three of the five county freeholders got around the State's Open Public Meetings Act to successfully negotiate a deal with Gruchacz to stay on -- provided he got a promotion and a 22% salary increase. At Wednesday's meeting of the county's Freeholder Board, Gruchacz was appointed County Administrator, Sussex County's top unelected bureaucrat, on a 3-2 vote (Crabb, Vohden, Mudrick voted yes; Phoebus and Graham voted no).
Of course, the $30,000-per-year salary increase the three Freeholders gave Gruchacz came with a three-year contract. In effect, they gave him a pension boost as well. It's nice to have friends in high places. Word has it that the votes of the three Freeholders for Gruchacz were delivered by outgoing County Administrator Johnny "Wildthing" Eskilson.
On the same day that Freeholder Vohden was insisting that destroying the audio recordings of what he said during the negotiations that led to the solar debacle was nothing more than "following the law", Vohden led a posse of Crabb and Mudrick in ignoring the County's law that requires the top job be filled by someone residing in Sussex County. Gruchacz lives in Somerset County and pays his property taxes there. Taxpayers screwed again. This man doesn't even feel our pain.
However, the Gruchacz appointment did make it plain who runs the county -- it's the outgoing County Administrator and the three Freeholders (Vohden, Crabb, and Mudrick) one of whom was just defeated for re-election (Mudrick came in four out of four). Instead of taking the will of the voters into account, Gruchacz was appointed over the strong objections of the County's legislative delegation, other elected county officials, and numerous local elected officials.
Nobody thought it a good idea to hand Gruchacz a three year contract. All these elected officials advised giving him no more than an interim contract as provided for by law, but Eskilson got to Crabb who infected Vohden, leaving Mudrick, who just slavishly obeys. One can only wonder what kind of cooperation the County will get from Trenton after pulling a stunt like this.
At Wednesday's meeting, Freeholder Crabb referred to Gruchacz as "Best of Breed" -- apparently forgetting that the term is used in judging dogs. On the other hand, this might well be a real dog of an appointment.