Ted Mattox: A Rebuttal

Ted Mattox, Montclair mayoral candidate and Councilor at Large, responds to a letter from John Reichman that appeared last week in the Montclair Times, and here.

I agree with Mr. Reichman – it is unfortunate that the town incurred legal fees in connection with the lawsuit. But, consider the alternative. The suit effectively stopped an $800,000 boondoggle project called “Wayfinding” that the Council had approved. This was an ill-conceived signage program with all the earmarks of wasteful spending, including the absence of public bidding. The total cost of the program would have been close to one million dollars. The cavalier disregard for public bidding laws coupled with a firm belief that there were more important priorities for our town prompted the lawsuit.
Mr. Reichman’s letter fails to mention that 12 taxpayers sued the township and paid their own legal fees, including me.

They sued because they deeply believe, as do I, that Montclair residents are getting fleeced. We do not know how much the town has spent on the lawsuit because that information has been withheld. Citizens should be aware that rather than address the lawsuit’s underlying concerns, the other council members elected to litigate the matter, including filing a frivolous counterclaim. For now, that counterclaim has been set aside by the courts. The counterclaim has been deemed by the court as non-essential and irrelevant to the central issue of the violation of state contracting laws. Taxpayers, unfortunately, continue to fund the counterclaim.
Assuming Mr. Reichman’s $200,000 figure to be accurate, it would be fair to say that the suit has saved the township $600,000. Those are the facts.
Let’s not forget: The Township has refused to release just how much they’ve spent on this particular litigation. They have argued that disclosing how much they√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve spent would compromise the integrity of their defense. I sought a court order to get them to disclose the amount. Mr. Reichman claims the township has spent $200K. How does he know this closely guarded litigation secret? Truth is, Mr. Reichman used an annual budget figure for the law department and attributed it to the cost of litigating this single lawsuit. Mr. Reichman might want to disclose how he developed this number.
Political courage means standing up to the status quo by challenging the wisdom of the endless parade of pet spending projects that come before the Council. It is true that I have compiled a record of not always voting with the Council. I refuse to be a rubber stamp. Mr. Reichman may wish to call it demagoguery. I call it leadership.
Please join me in helping Montclair to THRIVE!
Ted Mattox
Councilor at Large

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  1. Is it 2009, yet? I wanna start complaining about how our newly elected officials are screwing us as much as the ones we just got rid of.
    The above statement applies equally to the town elections as well as the Presidential election.

  2. Huh? He “saved” the town $600,000??! As I remember, the Council voteed down the wayfinding program, and Ted Mattox continued the lawsuit. So as I see it, we paid $200,000 for nothing. I’d rather have some signs…wonder how much he “saved” the non-profits he sued?

  3. The wayfinding program was voted down AFTER the lawsuit was served. it was on a Tuesday night. The lawsuit was served on the preceeding Friday afternoon. Remsen admitted the decision was made during some “informal” phone calls over the weekend.
    Remember, they hadn’t previously budged on this issue even when presented with a petition with over 200 names and after a public comment at the meeting 2 weeks prior that was overwhelmingly against the wayfinding signs.
    The signs were estimated at $750k minimum. The lawsuit has not cost $200k, as is mentioned in MAttox rebuttal.
    The council is not only using taxpayer money to defend itself against the lawsuit, but to file a counterclaim. The council never voted on whether to file a counterclaim and never voted or had public comment on whether to use taxpayer funds to do it.
    Mattox never sued the non-profits.
    Hatag is misinformed, badly and it’s hard to understand who he/she got so much wrong based on the info in this post and the previous post.
    Bottom line, if you want the lawsuit to cost less in taxpayer money, at the very least tell the council to drop the countersuit which we are still paying for.
    Also, remember, the council agreed, in writing, to all of the lawsuit demands if Mattox would drop the lawsuit. He agreed. The lawsuit then reneged. Again, clearly the remainder of the council deciding to spend more money.

  4. Maybe so – but if that was truly his reasoning, why has he continued the lawsuit for so long? Its been something like a year-and-a-half! I think he knows it was frivolous, and he trying to come up with justifications now.

  5. hatag,
    The council could easily settle the lawsuit. How much of the town’s supposed defense cost was spent on apparently overblown (subsequently withdrawn) counterclaims?
    You use the word “frivolous” without justification here — right or wrong, if it were frivolous in the genuine legal sense of the word, I doubt it would have survived to this point.

  6. “Political courage”?; “leadership?”
    You’re kidding, right?
    And stop taking credit for the lawsuit “killing” the wayfinding project and, in doing so, trying to convince everyone what a great bargain they got with the lawsuit. It was clear that there was a lot of opposition to the project so we pulled it. Period.
    Tell me you really don’t believe all this stuff you’re writing.

  7. Jon Doh leaves out one other point:
    The wayfinding program was voted down AFTER the lawsuit was served. it was on a Tuesday night. The lawsuit was served on the preceeding Friday afternoon. Remsen admitted the decision was made during some “informal” phone calls over the weekend.
    The “informal” phone calls constitued a “business meeting” and as such should have been a public meeting. IMHO, the Council violated the State’s OPMA (Open Public Meeting Act).

  8. “Maybe so – but if that was truly his reasoning, why has he continued the lawsuit for so long?”
    You’re still missing the point, wayfinding was only one of the issues in the lawsuit. No-bid contracts over the threshold $ is not allowed except under a very specific condition. Mattox does not believe this condition is met. The remaining council is allowing no-bid contracts to a number of companies including the MAC and MEDC that are over the threshold. These are groups formed and run by the council members themselves.
    Remember, the council agreed to stop no-bid contracts if Mattox would drop the lawsuit. He agreed, they reneged. That is the reason the lawsuit continues.

  9. Wed, you’re fooling no one. It’s no coincidence that after the public comment and petition, the wayfinding program surged ahead for weeks and you all supported it except Mattox. Only days after the lawsuit was it pulled, and you admitted this on the cooler with you’re “informal phone calls among members” that you then backtracked on when asked how you could have such a meeting without public notification.
    If you want to believe it was done regardless of the lawsuit, fine. The timing of the whole thing shows otherwise. Luckily it is temporarily gone (but not dead as you went out of your way to mention that you hoped it would be revisited in some form in the future).
    So Ed, as long as your here, is there any truth that you are not running, paving the way for Tobin to run so that he can then hire you as Town Manager?

  10. Thanks Curm, i didn’t originally add this, but as my last post mentions, after Ed posted about this meeting on the Cooler, he quickly backtracked when this issue (probably by you) was mentioned.
    Ed, if the Lawsuit had nothing to do with the wayfinding program termination, why the long delay after the initial meeting and public comment where you all stood by the program. You’re saying it was just coincidence that you guys informally decided to kill it just days after the lawsuit was served?
    You don’t really believe the stuff you’re writing, do you?

  11. Are taxpayers supposed to gain some new insight or reassurance about competent government in Montclair from this renewal of self-serving bickering, hypocrisy and cronyism, accusations and countercharges?
    This is a council that cannot get its employees to enforce the code, or clean up the town streets, parks or properties, but has time to legislate how people manage their dogs and children in their homes, while engaging in their terminal divorce debate.
    Not my idea of taxation with representation.

  12. Darn Nana, if you ever decide to run, I’ll move back to town and vote for you. I could only hope for someone with your common sense and insight to be “on board” in every town. Keep it up, if only to keep them on their toes.

  13. Mayor Ed,
    There was a LOT of opposition to the Wayfaring project before the lawsuit and you didn’t pull the project. You pulled the project ONLY after the lawsuit was filed.
    Are you admitting that you had a Town Council meeting without announcing it to the public, without taking and publishing notes, without public input, and without including ALL of the Town Council?
    Isn’t that illegal? Isn’t that a violation of OPRA and OPMA? I’m sure it’s also a violation of other statutes. Note to self- research needed here.
    Then there’s the incident at an announced and PUBLIC Town Council meeting where when you didn’t like what a constituent who had the floor was saying, you, with your little dog toto (JMichaelson)in tow walked out of the meeting with the woman still talking.
    You’ve shown us what you think of your constituents.
    I really wish we could show you what we think of you.
    I wish you were running again so that we could show you with our votes how we think your term has been and how you’ve represented us!

  14. I’m voting you out Buddy! I don’t fall for your spin. I’ll see you at the SS building freezing your arse off when I walk to work. You and the other crappy councilmembers should take responsibility for cheating taxpayers instead of passing the buck.

  15. T.A. Duck, Your comment is flattering. However, my suggestion for those who participate in vetting and selecting local electoral analyze the lessons from the last four years, then share those lessons with prospects and voters, before finalizing slates and policy platforms.
    It would also be refreshing to see incumbents and new prospects engage in some self-scrutiny and self -criticism before running for re-election.

  16. OK, so the newest numbers are…the town council has paid slightly over $80k in legal fees for the original lawsuit AND the counter claim they decided to file.
    Basically, this was to allow the council to award $40k in no-bid contracts to the MEDC. Bidding is not necessary for any contracts of $29k or below. So the council has paid $80k in order to continue giving the MEDC the additional $11k in funds over the threshold without making them bid on it.
    Now that the legal fee is becoming public, watch to see how quickly the council settles this lawsuit (again, since they originally agreed to settle it last year and then pulled the agreement).

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