Kevin Bannon, the executive director of the Mercer County Park Commission, has been put on paid leave by the county amidst an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office regarding the Mercer County Park Commission and the non-profit Friends of Mercer County Parks.
“Given the public allegations regarding leadership at the park commission, I think it is best that Mr. Bannon be put on a temporary 30-day leave with pay and Mr. Bannon has volunteered to do so,” County Executive Brian Hughes said. “I believe the attention surrounding the Attorney General’s inquiry is a distraction to the fine work that goes into our award winning parks, and Kevin Bannon shares my sentiment.”
Bannon, the former coach of the Rutgers University men’s basketball team, was hired to lead the commission in 2004.
Early this week, employees from the Attorney General’s office raided the offices of the parks commission and the nonprofit friends of the parks group.
“I reiterate my pride the Mercer County park system and I have full faith that the organizations will fully cooperate in this investigation,” Hughes said. “We will reevaluate this decision in 30 days and move forward from there.”
Officials said today that the commission executive director position is under the purview of the park commission board, and appointments are made by the board via a resolution.
“The county administration does not have jurisdiction or power over the process,” officials said. “As a result, Mr. Hughes on Friday called on Park Commission President Drew Worek to begin the process to put the director on leave pending further information.”
The statement about appointments being made by board approval via a resolution alone contradicts the response to a question from Planet Princeton yesterday about whether the Mercer County Freeholders and the county executive approve hires at the park commission.
Planet Princeton was told yesterday that employees are hired by the county and approved by the county executive. Planet Princeton was also told the parks commission members are appointed by the county executive with the advice and consent of the freeholders.