Teaneck appoints familiar face as acting manager

By David Voreacos, Staff Writer

The Record, June 2, 1991

Gary S. SaageOne day after firing Jack Hadge, Teaneck's Township Council has agreed to bring back an old hand to run the township government.

In a closedd session Friday, the council appointed former Chief Financial Officer Gary S. Saage as acting manager until it finds a permanent replacement. Saage, who must be confirmed in a public vote Tuesday, will start immediately.

"I look forward to coming back and being with all my employees," said Saage, a 57-year-old township resident. "I feel comfortable there. I spent 24 years of my life there. I bleed Teaneck blue, to paraphrase [Los Angeles Dodgers manager] Tommy Lasorda."

Saage said he is interested in permanent appointment, but the council plans a search, which could take several months.

Thursday, the council voted, 5-2, to fire Hadge effective July 1, and to suspend him until then. Hadge can request a hearing in the next month.

Hadge, who had come under increasing fire, was criticized in a council resolution that cited his alienation of township employees, his poor relations with reporters and the public, and his withholding of information from the council.

The council apparently believe that such problems will not arise with Saage. He is regarded as an honest, tightfisted administrator who values integrity in government workers.

"I feel very positive because of Gary's background in finance and his complete unterstanding of state law," said Mayor Eleanor Kieliszek. "He understands what the council desires. The council makes policy and he expects to carry it out."

Saage had worked for the township for 24 years when he began a terminal leave in November, citing pholosophical differences with Hadge. Saage also served as acting township manager from August 1988 to February 1989, when Hadge came to Teaneck from Niles, Ill.

Saage, who will make Hadge's salary of 85,000, faces several immediate hurdles. The township has yet to pass its 1991 budget, the Police Department has been without a chief for six months, three municipal unions are working under expired contracts, and Hadge left many employees disspirited.

In addition, the township still is struggling to initiate solutions to social problems exposed by the fatal shooting of Philip C. Pannell, a black 16-year-old, by policie official Gary S. Spath, who is white. Spath is to be tried on a charge of reckless manslaughter.

Saage said he will first set his attention to studying the $29.1 million budget proposal. He said he probably will change the way the township finances capital improvements and will appoint one of the three police captains as chief within the next month.

Restoring a free flow of information to the Township Clerk's office -- which often feuded with Hadge -- also is a priority for Saage.

"I absolutely believe in open government," said Saage, who added that he will follow the example of former Manager Werner Schmid, who retired in 1988 after more than 30 years in township government.

"Werner Schmid set the standard for me as a model of a well-run goverment in New Jersey," Saage said. "we had a team spirit under him, and I just want to reestablish that as best I can. I want to restore a sense for employees that they're working in a professional environment and they're feeling good about their work."

After fireing Hadge, the council also appointed his deputy, Henry Ross, as interim manager until an acting or permanent replacement was found. But on Friday the council decided that Ross will continue in his role as deputy, Kieliszek said.