Mayor's Ad Sparks Heated Exchanges At Council Meeting
Bill Laforet's public rebuke of Township Council over killing of recycling privatization plan leads to acrimony as election looms.
An impassioned argument broke out Thursday night over a full-page ad placed in last week’s edition of the Suburban News by Mayor Bill Laforet that rebuked a Township Council decision not to privatize Mahwah’s recycling department.
Several council members said Thursday they were "offended" by the ad, which called the decision not to privatize recycling a "vote against the taxpayer."
"The mayor accused the council unjustly of not doing our job," Councilman Harry Williams said during an emotional speech at the Thursday night Council meeting. "[He] had no right to do that."
Williams and Councilmen John Roth and Roy Larsen criticized Laforet for several policy decisions and proposals made since his election last November, including the creation of a 'Blue Ribbon' panel of residents who advised him while preparing this year’s township budget, a move to privatize part of the ambulance corps, and the recommendation to privatize the recycling department.
Williams said Laforet’s plans were "ill advised and ill informed," and said they have led to "constant controversy" among the township’s governing body.
Laforet called the decisions part of a "changing way of looking at our fiscal situation."
"We are in a budget crisis," he said. "The Council decided to vote against [the recycling proposal] and I respect that, but I disagree." He described the ad as a description of his positions, and did not apologize for it.
He called the reaction of the Council members a "common response from the old guard when presented with doing things in a new way."
The exchange also brought up recent political spats between the mayor and Council members, including Laforet’s purchase of website domains containing the names of his political foes.
According to a NorthJersey.com report, Laforet purchased RothForMayor.com and HermansenForMayor.com (referencing Mahwah resident and Bergen County Freeholder Rob Hermansen) in April. Roth said Laforet also registered several other similar addresses.
"There is nothing unusual about it," Laforet said. "I’m not the first person to do that."
Neither Roth nor Hermansen are running for mayor, Roth said. Roth is running for reelection to his town council seat, and Hermansen is running for reelection to his county seat.
Laforet is also running for reelection this November. His opponent, Ed Sinclair, was at the meeting Thursday, and briefly addressed the Council during a public portion, saying his "Blue Ribbon panel would be the seven [council members] elected by the people."
The heated debate prompted Mahwah resident Steve Sbarra to call the township’s government "divided," and ask the mayor and Council to "get together. Let’s put this stuff behind us and grow up."
Sbarra, who made an unsuccessful run for council last year against Councilman Chuck Jandris, said Thursday night he has picked up petitions to run again this year. "I am trying to get them all signed by the [September] deadline so I can run again," he said.
Council and mayoral candidates have until September 4 to file petitions to run for office with the township clerk.