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√¢‚Ç¨‚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!
Councilor at Large