NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The City Council met on July 1, but they decided not to tell the public that two key city officials had retired just a day earlier.
There was no farewell message to or from outgoing Business Administrator Dan Torrisi or outgoing Finance Director Doug Petix. The two men worked for the city government for 30 and 24 years, respectively.
The changes come as the City Council is scheduled to vote on the city’s first annual budget since the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the local economy. The move empowers a lobbyist with close ties to Mayor Jim Cahill, and an ex-official in Hamilton Township who left that job after a messy falling out.
Cahill, in his eighth term as Mayor, hasn’t made any public statements about the personnel changes, despite doing seven half-hour radio broadcasts since he quietly elevated Michael Drulis to the dual roles of “Acting” Business Administrator (BA) and “Acting” Finance Director.
Meanwhile, Richard Mulrine was brought on as Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
State law allows Mayors to appoint “Acting” department heads without the consent of the City Council. It’s unclear how much the two men are being paid. Mulrine and Drulis did not return messages.
Council President John Anderson said the Council was “basically just waiting for the Mayor’s announcement since he’s the guy who appoints them…. We’ll get to [informing the public] this month, I’m sure.”
Cahill’s spokesperson was unavailable for comment and did not respond to questions about the personnel change. The Council Vice President, Suzanne Sicora-Ludwig did not respond to inquiries about the changes.
Under New Brunswick’s form of government, the BA “assists [the] Mayor in budget preparation and administers purchasing and personnel systems.”
The city’s 2020-21 budget was been submitted to the City Council in May, and is set for a public hearing on July 15.
While Drulis was promoted from within, Mulrine, a newcomer to the city government, is now serving as the city’s top finance person.
Mulrine is the brother-in-law of ex-Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede, and worked in that Township’s finance office until recently.
After a falling out with his boss, Mulrine was accused of acting on matters where he had a conflict of interest, by approving thousands of dollars in expenses for Yaede. Yaede lost her re-election bid last year.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office raided the Hamilton Township Finance office in September 2019, as scandals swirled around the administration, reportedly seizing a laptop assigned to Mulrine.
Drulis, a resident of Flemington, has been with the city government since he started as a spokesperson for Mayor Cahill in 2003. He now seems poised to become Cahill’s fourth BA.
Torrisi served only 18 months as Business Administrator, after nearly three decades as the City Clerk. He succeeded Thomas Loughlin III, who took over for Gregory Fahrenbach in 1993.
Drulis is active in the Democratic Party, and his wife Mitchelle was just elected as a delegate in support of the Presidential campaign of Joe Biden.
The couple previously owned a home on Laurel Place in New Brunswick, and Michael served as a Mayor-appointed member of the city’s Zoning and Planning Boards.
A man who holds a variety of positions, Drulis runs a Trenton-based lobbying business and at least one other organization on the side. He lists “Principal Partner” at the firm Morford Drulis Associates atop of his LinkedIn profile.
Drulis is listed the Executive Director of NJSEED, a faux environmental group for which he has written in support of a controversial pipeline plan.
Other Executive Director positions on his profile include the current top spot a the NJ Coalition for Finance Education (NJCFE) a previous gig as head of the Government Finance Officers Association of NJ.
He’s also a cheerleading coach in Hunterdon County who has run cheer academies in Somerset County.
Drulis is one of two Assistant BA’s to work under Torrisi, both of whom are paid at least $125,000 per year. The other, Brandon Goldberg, has previous experience as a BA, having performed that job for Middlesex Borough before joining the Cahill administration.
Questions that would typically be referred to Torrisi or Petix were answered by Drulis at the July 1 Council meeting, though no mention was made of the shakeup.
New Brunswick Today only learned of his retirement after getting a glimpse at e-mail records for Cahill’s spokesperson through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.
Cahill’s office has known about Torrisi’s retirement since at least June 19, when spokesman Bert Baron received a series of emails with the subject line “Dan Torrisi’s retirement.”
The city website includes seven “news” posts so far for the month of July, but nothing about the departure of the Business Administrator or CFO.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.