For George W. Huston, being connected to the Mantua Democratic machine has its privileges.
After retiring from the Gloucester City fire department in 2017 with a $70,337-a-year pension, Huston began a new career as a Gloucester County Deputy Fire Marshal with a $63,960 annual salary. Now the 59-year-old Huston is making 32% more money firpublic jobs than he was five years ago.
Huston’s new boss is Shawn Layton, the embattled county fire marshal. Layton now under investigation by the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s office after a three-year-old Golden Retriever trained to investigate arson died last month when Layton left the dog in his county-owned vehicle.
In addition to the fire marshal job, Huston serves on the Mantua Municipal Land Use board. Layton is a township committeeman in Mantua and voted for his appointment. He’s also a former Mantua fire commissioner, as part of the same fire department Layton belongs to.
Mantua is also the hometown of the Gloucester County Administrator, Chad Bruner. Bruner is also the Gloucester County Democratic chairman; his father, Howard “Butch” Bruner, is the Mantua Democratic municipal chairman.
But despite the connections, Huston appeared unclear about Layton’s current status as fire marshal when he answered his boss’ phone on Wednesday afternoon.
Asked if Layton was still working there, Huston replied, “I don’t know.”
Later, he changed his reply. “I can’t answer that. It’s a personnel issue.”
But Huston became agitated when pressed to say if Layton was on a leave or if he was working on Wednesday.
“It’s your prerogative to keep calling to bug us,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, a woman who answered Layton’s phone also appeared tired of calls from the New Jersey Globe to determine if the fire marshal is still on the job.
“I don’t have to answer any of your questions,” she said. “We are done answering your questions.”
A request to identify the county employee was unsuccessful.
“I don’t have to tell you who this is,” she stated.