The Spirit

Yeadon’s ‘ghost contractor’ released in staff moves

Many people have never seen Joel Avery and despite his role as a public relations professional, he has no online presence either.

Many people have never seen Joel Avery and despite his role as a public relations professional, he has no online presence either.

The man many people called “the ghost on Yeadon’s payroll” has officially been let go.

Joel Avery, the $54,000-a-year borough spokesman who virtually nobody had ever seen at any time, was fired as a part of several staffing changes made at the last Borough Council meeting in a 3-2 decision. Councilor Carlette Brooks abstained from voting, and Councilor LaToya Monroe was absent.

Only Council President Sharon Council-Harris and Council President Pro Temp Tomeka Jones-Waters voted unsuccessfully to keep him in the job. They claimed Avery was essential in maintaining the borough’s relationship with the media.

Avery ignited controversy during his 13 months with the borough because he was an enigma to most Council members and members of the public who frequently complained that he was highly paid, yet never attended Council meetings.

Although he was hired to be a public relations spokesman for the borough, critics frequently alleged he was only serving the interests of Council leaders. In fact, a majority of Council members claimed they never even met him and were not made privy to his contract prior to being hired. According to Council-Harris, Avery was hired because the “reputation of the Borough of Yeadon has been marred, time and time again, by local infighting.” But other members of Council said Avery did little to address that reputational damage.

When Yeadon’s former police chief, Anthony “Chachi” Paparo, was fired by Council nearly two years ago, the borough attracted widespread negative media attention over allegations that Paparo was fired because some on Council wanted “a Black chief.”

Council-Harris said, “Avery provided editorial recommendation on what information to give to the media at that time,” and she maintains that Paparo was fired over misuse of borough funds in scheduling part-time police officers for more hours than they were contractually permitted to work.

Council-Harris said Avery “fulfilled his responsibility as a public relations specialist,” but Councilor Liana Roadcloud disagreed, suggesting Avery’s work was not sufficient to justify the $4,500 per month he was paid by the borough.

Council-Harris also said Avery was under contract with the borough and firing him would risk a lawsuit against the municipality. Borough solicitor Mark P. Much corroborated that. It is unknown, however, whether Avery will pursue legal action. He did try suing a former employer years ago and lost.

Roadcloud told The SPIRIT, “The borough does not need a public relations specialist. Avery never provided an accounting of the work he allegedly performed. It is strongly believed that Avery provided personal political services to Councilors Council-Harris, Brooks, and Jones- Waters.” Neither Avery nor Council-Harris responded to requests for comment.

Later in the meeting, motions were passed to fill vacancies on the borough’s Civil Service Commission. Michael Trent was elected a member and Alicia Simmons and Learin Johnson were appointed as alternates. Currently, there are two other members one the Commission — Owen Wooten, who was appointed last year, and Carl Graham Jr., who, according to Roadcloud, is “missing in action.”

The Civil Service Commission exists to recruit new borough employees, including full-time police officers, and to advocate for any employees that may have a grievance against the borough. Yeadon has been unable to hire employees except by Council vote for the past two years due to the lack of an active Commission.

A motion was also unanimously approved to hire Jevon Julal as a full-time Public Works employee. The Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining borough roads, sewers, street signs, and other infrastructure.

Another motion was introduced to promote Ricardo Maxi to foreman of Public Works, which sparked more debate. Council-Harris and Jones-Waters suggested that promotion should be decided based on seniority, and that Maxi had only been an employee of the department for three years, whereas other employees had been there longer.

Roadcloud countered that Maxi had better credentials than the other employees and should be promoted based on merit. She also claimed that Jones- Waters did not want to promote Maxi due to a “personal vendetta,” but Jones-Waters explicitly denied having any personal grudge against Maxi. The motion eventually passed with a 4-1 vote with Jones- Waters abstaining.

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