Human Services Department Merged With County
Council says decision was budget based, declined to comment on outgoing department head.
The decision, expected for the last week, was characterized as a cost savings for the town in light of the difficult budget situation. Town Council members declined to comment on the personnel issues surrounding the department's director, Lillian Corsi. In the resolution implementing the merger, Corsi is described as retiring from town government.
"What this will frankly do is save the taxpayers of Westfield," Acting Mayor Mark Ciarrocca said. "We've gone through this to help our budget process."
The total savings is slight over $100,000, including Corsi's $91,000 annual salary, benefits for Corsi and operating expenses. Corsi was the department's only employee and the funds she administered were provided by the state. Ciarrocca announced last week that the finance committee was debating a series of personnel and service cuts in the 2010 town budget.
In a media availability after the meeting, Ciarrocca, who chairs the finance committee, said the decision was based on a retirement and declined to comment if the decision was related to Corsi's Feb. 5 arrest for DWI in the parking lot of the Municipal Building. He said he could not comment on the circumstances regarding Corsi's retirement. He did not comment when discussion regarding Corsi's retirement from town government started.
Ciarrocca said the Council has been considering the merger for two years, with the final decision coming now because of the declining revenues being faced by the town government. Corsi told Patch last summer that she anticipated a merger of the department coming after her retirement.
Ciarrocca stressed the services seen by residents served by the department will continue. He said the county will assume the social work portfolio and the town is currently advising those served by the department of the switch and the need to travel to Plainfield for social services. He said Corsi is still working for the town for the rest of the month and is in charge of informing residents of the change and how to continue social services in light of the merger. The human services agency oversees social services for the town, including providing assistance with housing and welfare issues. The department has worked closely with the town's non-profit sector in providing services.
Westfield was one of three towns in the county to continue to have a town based human services department. These towns included Mountainside, which utilitzed the Westfield department. Kenilworth remains the only town with a town based department.
An official in a town based non-profit organization said that his office has been receiving calls from residents who have not been able to reach Corsi, noting he has also left unreturned messages for Corsi. Ciarrocca said he had not heard this and that Corsi still at work.
Ciarrocca said the important duty for the department and the town is to continue to assure benefits for residents.
"A lot of the people forget that even though this is Westfield, there are a lot of people with a lot of need," he said. "It is important that the people who need services, get them."