Montclair Special Meeting, New Attorney Voted In, 4-3

Montclair town council has started its meeting today to a packed house at 205 Claremont for a special meeting to discuss the 2010 budget, which could raise taxes by 5.6 percent, as well as the appointment of a new town attorney.

The $70,430,948 budget was struck down after heated debate at Monday’s meeting in a 4-3 vote. Voting in favor of the budget were Mayor Fried and Councilors Lewis and Weller-Demming, while Councilors Africk, Murnick, Baskerville and Deputy Mayor Terry voted against.

4:13 pm
Kathryn Weller made a motion to hire Karasick, which was seconded by Nick Lewis. Mayor Fried has asked “any discussion?”

4:15 pm Cary asks what provision is for public comment. Fried says it will be at end of the meeting. Cary says what about before vote? Audience applauds. Fried says we use “Roberts Rules of Orders.” People boo.

4:18 pm Cary “You still haven’t answered my question. My comment is, what is the provision for public comment? I have 50 emails from people who want to speak.”

Fried defers to assistant attorney, Joseph Angelo, who reads from public meetings act, and says:

“Legally don’t have to do it before vote, but I would implore the council to be consistent as how you’ve done it in past.

Do we have to make a motion to allow public comment?

We have a motion on the table.

I’m in favor of Mr. Africk. They’re here for a reason

Terry: “We talk about transparency. This is about a transparent as a piece of coal.”

Fried: We’ve had confidential discussions before reason we don’t have public comment. Those comments are not germaine to our deliberation

Baskerville: Introduces an amendment to the motion allowing public comment

the vote: africk -yes
baskerville yes
fried – no
lewis -yes (after thinking a long time)
murnick – yes
terry – yes
weller – no

4:31: Impassioned speech by Don Zieff, reading from Fried’s initial speech on being sworn in, promising to listen to the public. Beseeching him to listen in this case.

4:36: Murnick: “Change sometimes is good, but change at this point…”

“Alan Trembulak is doing a great job as an attorney. He does what he’s told to do.”

“We haven’t done enough due diligence. This is not a time to speculate, in which to train somebody knew. We have a planning board attorney, and Ira’s doing a great job there.”

4:39: Cary: “I’ve found Alan to be an excellent person to work with. I’m entirely satisfied with the work that he’s done. Alan is also a-political. He doesn’t come here with a political view [applause]. He does the work.”

“If we decide to make a change, we owe it to you to go through the process of talking to candidates. “I was asked to look at documents that were sent to me last night from June 2009”

“We sat with all the candidates for judge. We thoroughly vetted them. We put them through the ringer. With the attorney — if we replace, we need to go carefully.”

“Baskerville’s suggestion that we re-set the salary scales and consider part time is an excellent suggestion.”

“We’re in a new world.”

Nick Lewis: “One of those most difficult decisions, probably the most miserable week of my 2 1/2 years. Could you guys at least stop it. You guys should at least be vaguely polite [Lewis says to audience – who had made an “Awwww” sound]. You’re just making yourselves look petty.”

[of Kurasick] He was our alternate candidate last time. Nothing has changed.”

Weller: “While I certainly appreciate all of you coming here to share your opinions with us, ultimately this is a decision that we have to make.”

4:45: Baskerville: Says she has a good working relationship with Trembulak. “When you’re dealing with a body and a group of people who have to work together, situations sometimes, when you’re not directly involved, you can’t determine if something is broke”

“This is a difficult situation. There are things that are broke and a lot of them have nothing to do with the last manager or the present attorney.”

“I don’t think there’s anything broke, but there’s enough of council, things they’re not feeling comfortable with. We have to figure out how the seven of us can get the fit.”

Terry: “This is another sad day in the township of Montclair. Where are the rewards for good work? But over the last couple of months or so, I don’t see that from my council. They almost feel like experience means nothing, nothing at all.”

Responds to someone in audience, and says, we need “Institutional knowledge”

“Citizens of Montclair, wake up. WAKE UP!” “You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on around you.”

Terry: “We worked him under some very tough adverse circumstances. Why in the middle of a serious budget situation would you change the township attorney. I just don’t get it.”


Just now, Mayor Fried’s mic wasn’t working.

Cary says “That’s a message.” Audience laughs

Fried: “We each sincerely look to represent all of the residents of Montclair. Personnel decisions, they’re the most important decisions. We have a responsibility to be ethical and legal. We are elected by the people. That’s the way democracy works. The important thing is that we move on and we progress and the majority makes the decision.”

Cary — MOTION TO TABLE (failed)

Motion carries to appoint Karasick. Votes:
africk – no
baskerville -yes
fried – yes
lewis -yes
murnick – no
terry – no
weller – yes

Resident says: “That’s an embarrassment and a shame.”

Online commenter react to Baskerville, who appears to be the swing vote.

Africk and Murnick want public comment on attorney; they were joined by Lewis, Baskerville. Mayor Fried and Weller were against, but it passed. Six people spoke, five were in favor of keeping Trembulak. Sentiment was “It it’s not fixed, don’t break it.”

Town manager Marc Dashield talks about the budget.

Dashield: “2010 is not a budget to be proud of.”

Dashield listed some cuts made, renegotiating contracts, unions. “It’s a multi-year process to lower debt and budget increase that has already started.”

Councilors are giving suggestions on proposals for 2010 on cuts and revenue enhancement on the big white board.

Things are getting tense between Murnick and Fried. Murnick says he was only given the chance to give one idea and when he went to comment on one of Cary’s ideas, Fried told him to wait his turn. Cary asked Murnick for a number amount, Murnick said, “I was told not to speak because we were all happy about the 10 percent increase.”

Ideas on white board are:

Label street project with a $350k revenue enhancement

Sewer connection fee $1 million revenue enhancement

Sell Clary Anderson arena (Cary didn’t have a $$ figure, said “we could ask Trembulak” as as a joke)

Review parking authority would be a $200k cut

Additional layoffs: no $ figure provided

Terry: Says he took offense to the mayor saying he called those he voted no on budget irresponsible and will not be playing any bulletin board games right now.

Dashield: Says $1 million from sewer would need approval from the state and he doesn’t recommend because it will leave a hole in 2011 budget and just be delaying the inevitable.

Selling Anderson arena would need state approval and need a signed contract of sale before that can be in budget — will be a long time — not in time for 2010

Additional layoffs would not be very effective right now with only two months left in some salaries something to come back to for 2011.

UPDATE: We’re breaking from live blogging and will post a meeting recap when it’s over.

Reporting from Kristie Cattafi and Deb Galant

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  1. “While I certainly appreciate all of you coming here to share your opinions with us”

    He’s so appreciative he voted against public comment.

  2. There are things that are broke and a lot of them have nothing to do with the last manager or the present attorney

    I’ll say!

  3. roc, that was Weller who said that, not Fried. But same difference.

    “While I certainly appreciate all of you coming here to share your opinions with us…” How condescending. Was she knitting at the time?

  4. Stuck at home, but I’ll fill you all in the best I can.

    Everyone in the public and on the council minus the Fried 3 have had nothing but positive things to say about our current town lawyer. The Fried 3 were all against public discussion on the topic. To this point, we do not even know the reason the Fried 3 have chosen to take us in a new direction. The vote was taken after Cary motioned to table the vote until more information was offered, but this failed. We now have a new town lawyer who no one knows a damn thing about. Renee was the swing vote. I suppose a thank you for her recent appointment to the planning board.

  5. “roc, that was Weller who said that, not Fried. But same difference.”

    I know. Weller voted against public comment.

  6. Renee, you have left this 4th ward constituent down. Perhaps you feel you can bring more to the 4th ward on the planning board. I highly doubt it. Sorry Renee.

  7. Did I miss something while I was away?
    Where did cathar go?
    And what happened to theproblemtoo/whatsupwiththat?

  8. They have moved onto the budget. DaShield is describing the budget and trying sell it to the crowd. Their pitchforks are still held high, by they have appeared to extinguish their torches.

    My guess is that the budget will pass with Renee playing Judas and potentially Roger rejoining his rightful position in the Fried Five as the town attorney appointment took a lot of air out of the balloon.

    Quite honestly, I’m glad I’m moving. I have never seen such an absolute display of abuse of power and complete disregard for the will of the constituency. Put that quote on your front page Liz.

  9. So, is there anything in the record (as opposed to those private conversations they get to have) that explains why Trembulak is out and Karasick is in?

    It’s getting pretty clubby at 205 Claremont….

  10. Can I ask why people are so mad about the council switching attorneys? I don’t care either way, so I’m just curious why a seemingly arcane municipal matter has elicited such anger here.

  11. nickcharles,

    With the lack of any information whatsover as to why this change was made, one is left to make an educated guess based on past council decisions. Last week, the Fried 4 appointed a progressive BlueWaveNJ active member to the municipal court as judge. Once again, the Fried 4 did not have a single reason for making this change.

    A quick Google of our new town lawyer and he is obviously a progressive as well. His mistakes are well documented on the internet (google it for yourself) and he appears to have no experience as a town lawyer. All I know is that he served on the same planning committee that Cary was just booted from and Renee has been added to.

  12. Funny, the town manager just poopooed Cary’s suggestion to use the 2.7 million worth of new connection fees from the MSU sewer project as it would be a one time fix. DaShield did point out that we shouldn’t have done what we did with Label Street.

  13. The short answer Nick,

    Fried wants to continue on his progressive agenda to save the world on the Montclair tax dollar and getting a politically motivated town lawyer (who happened to write a very serious endorsement to shamed Hoboken Mayor Cammarano) will help him to do so.

    So far, the recent appointee score is 2 for progressive politics, -2 for Montclair residents’ wallets.

  14. Nick, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to infer that the old judge was terminated. Not even sure where you got that from.

    I know that I am biased, but I have not lied about a single issue. I am not disingenuous.

  15. I see it. I should have not said made that change. I should have said chose the bluewaveNJ member over the other candidate praised and endorsed by leaders all over town who also appeared to be much more experienced.

    I did not hear a single recommendation or endorsement for the Fried 4 choice.

  16. I don’t disagree with you, stu — I was just pointing out that they didn’t make a change in judges just to make a change. I’m also not sure this attorney change has any affect on taxpayers’ wallets. He’ll probably get paid the same amount or less.

    Still, I’m wondering why these changes weren’t made when they all come in. “We want a different direction” two-plus years into their four-year terms is a pretty odd reason to change the town’s attorney.

  17. Would need approval, blah blah, layoffs would not be effective now, blah blah. Just frikkin’ do it.
    Put getting state approval in the “yes, we’ll try that” column. Put layoffs in the same column. It might be too late for 2010 but when I look at my calendar I see 2011 looking pretty close here. Geez.

  18. Currently everyone but the original Fried 3 have presented their specific ideas about the budget. Fried is making sure that no one discusses the 2011 budget. We have not yet heard the public comment.

  19. Understood Nick. I know I come across sounding like a biased lunatic, but I’m fairly certain that I am pretty damn close to the truth.

    And the Fried 3 have not come up with any new ideas.

  20. They are moving to the straw poll on the suggested ideas. Since the big ticket items do not have price tags attached to them (such as selling Clary Anderson), Fried is dismissing them.

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