Montclair Municipal Election Results: Spiller Wins, Montclair Loses With Pitiful Voter Turnout


Unofficial results show Sean Spiller has won in the Third Ward, the ward with the highest voter turnout, beating Maureen Edelson, with 678 votes to her 252. The other incumbents ran unopposed.

Preliminary results from town clerk Linda Wanat show that only 2,250 residents turned out to vote. Montclair has 28,465 registered voters.

Spiller thanked his supporters and campaign team, as well as Edelson for running a good campaign.

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  1. Elcamino doesn’t care about low turnout (a 5 to 10 percent random sample suffices), he cares about that wacky 3rd ward vote. If I have the facts right, a union executive who got booted off a local school board by a judge for a conflict of interest wins 3rd ward about 7 to 3? Those 3rd warders are some forgiving folks, or those union funded “glossies” were hella persuasive.

    Maureen Edelson, you fought fairly and lost honorably-you’ve got some reasonable sized ovaries. I advised early on to go negative, as in “violated ethics, conflict of interest, right wing conspiracy, former hockey player’ but you took high rode…and lost. You proved, once again, that non-progressives have no future in Montclair.

  2. At least the council won’t need to take another official portrait for the next term to display in the chambers! 😀

  3. Big news for you elcamino. The judge did not say Spiller had a conflict of interest.

    He said (and this is from someone sitting right there) that he COULD have the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    It may never happen, but on appeal to a court with a better legal brain – and our Harvard trained township attorney might be proven right on this conflict of interest issue – when he advised Spiller there was no difficulty with him serving on the BOSE.

    Why? Spiller makes no money personally from being on this board, in fact he loses money as a home-owning taxpayer by giving higher salaries to our local teachers.

    The conflict of interest statutes require a direct financial or personal interest in a decision. Spiller, being an executive of the state NJ. teachers union gets no personal benefit from a favorable budget vote on behalf of Montclair teachers. It is really no different than someone on the school board having a kid in the school system at the time given their indirect benefits from votes, or being a financial executive at a major financial institution. Some financial institutions gain from more town bonding of budgets. Most like not the board member directly. But his employer overall might. We don’t scream conflict on interest then.

    It’s the same kind of indirect relationship.

  4. Elcamino, I reproduced very successfully nearly thirty years ago, yet no one complimented me on my ovaries until today. Thank you :). It IS all about courage, isn’t it? Going negative, or not, was a very strategic decision. For various reasons, the high road was the only choice, and a comfortable one for me, although I didn’t hesitate to let Judge Malloy’s decision (and other items) speak for itself…I used it liberally. We have some very compromised situations in town, and citizens are going to have to be vigilant, vocal and aggressive about making sure Montclair’s quality of life is not only sustained, but improved. Thank you for your enthusiastic and clear-eyed support. Separately, I think non-progressives do have a chance if we educate and model for the younger generation; the dense apartment complexes will not help. But, the world is dynamic, and we should be optimistic. Let me know if you want to help.

    Meccamagic, thank you for the thumbs up!

    Montclairmommy, a frugal woman after my own heart.

    Baristanet, thank you for all you do for the community.

    All in all, participating in this race was a terrific experience, and I recommend it to others who would serve well in the roles of candidate and elected official.


  5. My error. I should have more specifically said “when the Judge first reported his decision orally” in the room to those present. Clearly the order itself says “violates” the conflict of interest law.

    That still does not take away from my position that the lower court judge is likely wrong here if you actually read the details of Montclair’s local conflict of interest law.

    That Spiller relied on an “ok to go” opinion from our township attorney authorizing his service on the the Board of School Estimate — I feel absolves him personally. Spiller’s only downside – as others have suggested, is that he perhaps should have left that Board for optics — until the matter was settled legally – once it became a public issue for some residents.

    Will it ever be really fully settled? NJ. lower Superior Court judges are not the best and are frequently overturned by higher courts — much more than in other state systems. That’s because the clerks working for higher court judges here are much better at pure law.

    As has been stated many time, neither Spiller nor a member of his family gained personally from his decisions on the BOSE. In fact, he would lose money personally as a homeowner in higher taxes by awarding more to local teachers. Therefore any conflict of interest created is indirect.

    That’s no different than a Councilor sitting on that Board with also say a child in the school system at the time, or someone working for a financial institution whose employer provides bonding that the school system uses.

    On appeal, this kind of nuanced argument wins the day – not the optics only from just the appearance of a conflict from the union linkage. There needs to be an actual conflict or the potential for an actual conflict.

    Example: the recent decision on the former mayor and town-councilor who were executives or soon to be executive leaders at the nearby Church – right next to the building lot at issue. There was a direct connection to that lot in town and their service role. Therefore a direct, personal or potential personal conflict.

    So expect this decision to be over-turned — if it’s ever appealed.

  6. Impressive work realworld. First you correct me, then you have to correct yourself, they you call judge an idiot.

    Obviously Spiller did not gain financially, directly-were that true, even Harvard trained Karasick could have made the call. Here is the “potential for actual conflict,” which in your legal judgment, is sufficient: as a teachers’ union exec, Spiller would be loathe to ever oppose a school budget that was overly generous to teachers at taxpayers’ expense. His career concerns virtually preclude him from ever voting against teachers or the union, even when taxpayers-his supposed constituents–would wish him to. His personal career interests would conflict with taxpayers’ interest. That is a clear “potential for conflict of interest.”

    You seem sure the decision would be overturned if appealed, yet his union has not plans to appeal that I have heard. Maybe the union is not as confident as you are.

  7. Impressive work realworld. First you correct me, then you have to correct yourself, then you call the judge an idiot.

    Obviously Spiller did not gain financially, directly-were that true, even Karasick could have made the call. But there is a clear “potential for actual conflict,” which in your legal judgment, is sufficient: his career concerns as teachers’ union exec. virtually preclude him from ever voting against a budget that was overly generous to teachers but unfair to taxpayers, his supposed constituents as BOSE member. Imagine the conversation back at union headquarters:

    Union Boss: Why did you vote against that 10 percent raise for teachers in Montclair?
    Spiller: Sorry boss, it just wasn’t fair to Montclair taxpayers.
    Union Boss: That’s honorable, Sean, but maybe you would be happier working somewhere besides a TEACHERS’ UNION.

    That conversion would never happen because Spiller would never put taxpayers’ interests above teacher’ and his own career concerns,a clear “potential for conflict of interest.”

  8. I believe both Elcamino and realworld are needlessly distracted from what is the point IMO. The public was well informed about Mr. Spiller’s professional work for and support from the NJ Educational Association. AND THEY RESOUNDINGLY RE-ELECTED HIM. 73% is not a close race, and coming after sustained accusations and hysterics from the local anti-union crowd, is actually pretty impressive. The fact is that people recognized him for what he is: a dedicated, civic minded leader with values in tune with much of the town.

    El camino, if you are surprised by the results in the Third Ward as you profess above, perhaps you should speak to people outside the echo chamber and open your mind to alternate viewpoints.

  9. There was nothing in these election results that should be classified as resounding…except that registered voters overall apparently did not think going to the polls was a good use of their time. However, I was impressed by Councilor Baskerville’s vote total considering this was her second straight election running unopposed. This would seem to indicate Dr. Baskerville has a mandate to stay in her position as long as she wants to.

  10. “There was nothing in these election results that should be classified as resounding.”

    Wrong Frank. I had no dog in the fight, but 73%-27% IS resounding. About 925 votes were cast in the 3rd Ward. Is there any evidence to suggest that if turnout were higher, Maureen would have won (or come a lot closer)?

    In terms of Dr. Baskerville’s vote total, I believe she made a concerted effort to “get out the vote” (even though she ran unopposed again, as you note), because she may have designs on a Freeholder or Assembly seat, should one open up soon.

  11. Elcamino:

    Here’s a Department Director speaking to a potential BOSE Council member who works for a Financial Services Company.

    DIR: Why did you vote against that school bond issue to finance the new school in Montclair. We could have held $35 million worth of their paper?

    BOSE Council Member: It was against the interests of our taxpayers. We really didn’t need the new school, especially overpaying like that and taking on even more interest making the project really cost multiple times the actually quoted budget.

    DIR: That’s honorable, ____ but maybe you would be happier working somewhere besides a FINANCIAL SERVICES company.

    Fact: Montclair has had individuals on our Council with Financial Services company ties, or whose spouses worked for such companies and firms that might indirectly benefit just as such. Likely that will happen in the future too. So there you have it. The connection same is indirect – it’s industry or category symbiotic. It’s not a direct personal gain from the votes which is what the statute covers.

    And that’s why your linkage theory above will not ultimately hold. And why on appeal, this will likely be overturned – if undertaken. That is the basis for Karasick’s original recommendation, and the underlying legal theory of why many lawyers here believe the decision was off.

    The gain and conflict must be direct and personal or create a potentially personal direct benefit. Your scenario described is still steps removed – again be it not the recommended prescription for full impartiality views.

  12. I also have no stake in the vote there, but I disagree. Spiller got the same 680 votes this election that he got in last election. The W3 turnout was only 60% of the W3 turnout in the last contested election. Assuming a similar % of registered voters don’t vote in muni elections, the logical explanation for the difference is the voters thought, for whatever reasons, it was not worth the time to vote.

    So, it doesn’t come out resounding.

  13. You’re floundering: changing your definition of “conflict of interest,” invoking “many lawyers here,” (which lawyers? where?), and generally acting authoritatively when you actually had the ruling wrong (see above).

    I simply cannot, in good conscience, allow you to embarrass yourself further. Your guy lost the case but won the election. Perhaps we can agree on that.

  14. Seriously, how daft can you be @therealworld? The case is over, your guy lost and has not appealed. Your revisionist history (and quite frankly making sh&t up) may work with assessmentgate for a while, but the BoSE issue is closed.

    Congrats on Spiller’s win, but if you’re gonna play cave man lawyer, even you are gonna have to bone up a bit. Here ya go –

  15. Real, I understood the “plain meaning” of the statutes to be exactly as you described and thus had entirely the same perspective originally. Contrary to what many would say, Spiller doesn’t have the kind of direct financial conflict that runs afoul of the code.

    However, the override to that is a zealous protection of the public’s faith in government. The legitimacy or illegitimacy of the actual conflict becomes immaterial if the situation merely APPEARS to be a conflict.

    If people think something is shady, it does not matter that it isn’t. The philosophy is that it is better to lose a potential civil servant than lose the public’s faith in that service.

    You are right that it would likely be a coin flip a second time around since the “how much does it SMELL like a conflict?” test is entirely subjective when the direct financial component doesn’t exist.

    I would be shocked if Spiller appealed though because contrary to what his opposition may think, a fight over a BOSE seat isn’t exactly Iwo Jima. It’s one thing to return fire rather than surrender when someone else starts a Pyrrhic war. Nobody likes to get pushed around for political reasons… Cooler heads tend to have better things to do than wage court battles over largely immaterial things though… Meaning, Spiller may have defended himself while sitting in that seat but I seriously doubt he is going to invest a moment’s energy in the topic now that he isn’t in it.

  16. dblespresso – I did try to separate the legalities from the optics for the benefit of our one-minded friend elcamino. Clearly he is unable to make such distinctions, forget about being able to process technical legal arguments such as above analogy used to flip his position back on its head.

    Fully agree with you though on faith in government and optics. Not the best good government image to present and Councilor Spiller should have pulled himself off the BOSE in my view regardless – when it became an issue.

    But on the legalities – the judge is wrong based on the statute wording. Karasick was and is right. And while Spiller may not want to prove it, it could be that his Union might.

    Why should a teachers union be limited to their members not able to sit in judgement when – as I showed above — a potential corporate executive with an even greater financial interest and stake in the game – would not have any problem serving?

  17. realworld, I agree that if a financial exec, or anyone, had career concerns that would compel them to consistently vote against taxpayer interests vis-à-vis teachers, that would constitute a “potential conflict of interest” that should keep them off the BOSE. However, in the goofy scenario you described, the financial exec would say to his idiotic boss, “but boss, there are lots of municipal bonds out there, we don’t need Montclair bonds.” Actually, the boss would already know this, unless he really was an idiot, so the conversation would never happen. If, by contrast, the exec worked at “NJ Town Bonds R Us” that exec would have a conflict, at least on bond votes, and I would agree with you. Have we had such situations here?

    I do admire your confidence in stating emphatically and repeatedly that the Judge was wrong even after you misunderstood his ruling at the beginning of this thread. Perhaps you should reread (or just read?) the ruling, and come back with your refutation of key points in his argument-just be sure to quote and not paraphrase because, well, you know. This is your chance to play the appeals court judge that you are so supremely sure would overturn Moore’s ruling. Maybe you can call on the “many lawyers here” who agree with you.

  18. “Karasick was and is right.”

    Like when he completely blew the Sienna PILOT as well as during his infamous endorsement of the Peter Cammarano who is still serving time?

    But I think he was involved in Bluewave so he gets to stay. Much like a BOSE representative gets reelected to serve on the town council even after he LOST his court battle. Hey…Charlie Rangel kept getting elected. Why not Mr. Spiller?

  19. 73% to 27% is by every measure a wipeout. Why not start fresh, stop with this nonsense and say congrats to Spiller?

  20. The reason is simple, townie: Montclair’s awesome education reformers won the battle (their MKF lawsuit), but they lost the war (Spiller still got elected) – which can only mean one thing.


  21. Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
    What did you dream? It’s alright we told you what to dream.
    You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar,
    He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
    So welcome to the machine.

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