Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews, recently notified by Mayor James Davis that she will not be rehired, has chosen to resign before her term expired.
In a letter dated June 27, Davis let Mathews know she would not be reappointed to the position of Business Administrator (BA) this July. Mathews’ term expired on June 30, according to the letter, and she will not be appointed for a new term on July 1.
The letter ends with: “On behalf of the City and its elected officials, thank you for your service as Director to the residents of the City of Bayonne.” Davis signed the letter, which was marked “by hand delivery only” at the top.
Prior to taking on the role of BA, Mathews was a Clerk I with the Division of Planning and Zoning. Davis’s letter states that she apparently took a leave of absence from her position as a Clerk to become BA, and as such can return to that position as of July 1.
Resignation signed, sealed, and delivered
Before her term as BA ended, Mathews submitted her resignation. She rejected her demotion to Clerk I that would see a salary change from $130,000 to roughly $30,000, and tendered her resignation “under duress” as BA before her appointment expired at 4 p.m. June 30.
“This letter mischaracterizes a demotion to Clerk I as being a return from a ‘leave of absence’ to such position,” Mathews wrote. “This is not only incorrect but downright offensive, and it is taken as one final retaliatory transgression in a long line of unlawful misconduct toward me by you and the law department.”
Shortly after Mathews resigned and left City Hall, she was sent another letter. A mayoral staffer and ex-police officer hand-delivered a letter accepting her resignation to her home, in front of her kids. She was not called to pick up the letter, which she described as not urgent. This occurred despite her handing in her work-related items to the administration earlier in the day prior to departure.
In addition to the Davis Administration attempting to get the last word in after Mathews resigned, the second letter also delivered another slap to the face to Mathews. In the letter, Davis accepted Mathews resignation as a BA, stating that Mathews was not removed from the position, but that she was “simply not reappointed.”
Davis also accepted her resignation from the Clerk position she was offered to return to in lieu of being BA, despite Mathews disputing that she was on a “leave of absence” from being a Clerk during her tenure as BA. This also contradicts Mathews rejection of the demotion to Clerk, as well as the fact that the resignation acceptance letter itself addresses Mathews as the Business Administrator. This hand-delivered parting gift again signed by Davis could be seen as another condescending example of the alleged mistreatment and intimidation Mathews is suing over.
An embattled Business Administrator
Mathews made history when she became the city’s first female BA in 2020. Her appointment was approved by the City Council, who at that meeting defended Mathews’ qualifications amid criticism from political gadflies.
Even Davis was happy to hire her at the time, stating: “She has excellent educational credentials and experience in planning and zoning, investment banking, technology, non-profit organizations, and community activities. I am very proud to appoint her as the first woman to serve as Business Administrator for the City of Bayonne.”
However, the alleged mistreatment of Mathews by her co-workers while she was BA soon led her to file a gender discrimination lawsuit, alleging Bayonne City Hall was a “boy’s club” with a “toxic culture.”
While a judge dismissed two former city employees at the center of the case, former Assistant Business Administrator Mark Bonamo and former Municipal Services Director Tim Boyle, Mathews unsuccessfully appealed that decision through an amended complaint.
However, the rest of the case against Davis and other city officials is still pending in Hudson County Superior Court.
Mathews was supported in a statement by City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski upon the news breaking of her gender discrimination lawsuit. Subsequently, Mathews was supportive of Ashe-Nadrowski’s mayoral campaign which specifically sought to fix the “broken” nature of the culture at City Hall.
Now that the non-partisan municipal election is over, and Davis has been re-elected for a third term, it appears he is cleaning house of those who are not “rowing the same way” as Law Director Jay Coffey previously phrased Mathews’ behavior in an audio recording that went viral in 2021 amid the buildup to the election.
When asked how she felt about the situation, Mathews said: “At least they didn’t hire a hit man to kill me.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.