Montclair, NJ – Montclair Councilor Bob Russo dropped the big news at the last Montclair Township council meeting regarding Montclair’s town manager Timothy Stafford. Stafford was put on administrative leave in October following reports of a complaint filed by Montclair Chief Financial Officer Padmaja Rao against the Township of Montclair and Stafford. In February, the council adopted a preliminary resolution to remove him pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:69A-93.

On March 27, Russo said, regarding Stafford, “the guy is stalling, prolonging and trying to beat us over the head for money.”

Now we know just how much money.

According to a report in the Montclair Local and confirmed to Baristanet by an anonymous source, Stafford is asking Montclair for $1.2 million to walk away. Or, Montclair can pay him $500,000 and reinstate him.

At that same meeting last week, before Russo revealed other details about a back and forth with Stafford (Russo said “the man wanted a hearing, then he didn’t want a hearing, then he wanted a hearing again, then we postponed it two weeks.”), acting town attorney Paul Burr said he could not comment on the status of the town manager’s employment because there was “litigation, actually pre-litigation on a personnel matter.”

Later in that meeting, after Russo made his statement, Burr reiterated the importance of following the repeated legal advice to Council, given by both Burr and assistant township attorney Gina DeVito, about not disclosing information on any pending legal matters or personnel issues.

“Be mindful that statements made in public could waive indemnification of yourselves in the capacity that you are acting as elected officials and subject you to some liability issues,” said Burr.

A Council and Its Conflict

The contentious October 25, 2022 meeting where the Council voted to put the town manager on administrative leave.

This Town Council has had its share of explosive meetings, conflict and strife (including a meeting where police were called), and much has been related to the town manager and his removal.

When asked for comment regarding news that four members of the Council anonymously shared information disclosed in executive session regarding Stafford’s demand for $ 1.2 million, Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock and Councilor Robin Schlager both said they could not comment on pending litigation, something Hurlock had also said during the last meeting when asked about the town manager’s status by a resident during public comment. Hurlock had officiated at that meeting in Mayor Sean Spiller’s absence.

A million dollars is not a lot of money when it comes to holding the world for ransom, but it would be a lot for Montclair to have to pay, especially if there was an issue with the Township’s insurance.

Spiller, when asked for comment about the information that was disclosed, expressed concern Wednesday.

“Like all towns, Montclair carries insurance to protect the interests of the town and to protect our residents from unanticipated costs. Much as residents are familiar with their own insurance coverages like home and auto, standard practice is that the insurance company handles discussions, assessments, negotiations, and all matters in cases where they are the covering party. The alternative is a situation where we waive coverage and the township would have to pay and handle issues without the safety net of the insurer.

Furthermore, any discussion of or interference in their work could result in loss of coverage. As such, I have no comment on any discussions between the insurance company and the parties involved in litigation.

As a resident, I understand the desire to discuss all aspects of their work at all times. However, as elected representatives, all members of the governing body have an obligation to the confidentiality of the process and should adhere to advice from legal counsel in order to protect all of us as taxpayers.”

Executive Sessions and Confidentiality

According to Montclair Local, the four councilors asked for anonymity, citing the confidential nature of information learned in executive sessions.

Councilor David Cummings said the disclosure was a serious matter and and potentially could end up hurting the Township.

“It’s been a problem for some time. I don’t know why they just don’t give their names. It’s clear some members of this Council don’t care about violating Executive Session,” said Cummings.

Former Montclair township attorney Ira Karasick, echoing Burr’s statements, said the disclosure was not only wholly improper but could be damaging to the Township.

Karasick said he was astonished by an anonymous disclosure of this gravity — something he hadn’t seen in his 11 years with the Township — as well as the fact that the Township invited discussion of a settlement at all.

“To favor settlement over litigating, you have to feel like there’s vulnerability on both sides,” Karasick said. He also speculated whether the councilors who disclosed the information did so as a way to undermine or forestall a settlement.

“There are obviously many, many more layers to be peeled back on this,” said longtime former Montclair councilor Dr. Renee Baskerville, adding she couldn’t imagine why the Township would be negotiating with Stafford at all.

“He is an at-will employee, they don’t owe him an explanation. Is he holding onto something that they need from him?” she added.

Baskerville said the anonymous disclosure of confidential information by councilors was very unusual and seemed to her to be politically motivated.

“I can’t see putting your integrity in question,” she said of the disclosure.

In their February resolution, the Council “determined it is in the best interest of the Township to go in a different management direction.”

The Council’s resolution ending his paid leave stated that an investigation “did not find sufficient evidence to sustain a claim that Mr. Stafford’s conduct created an abusive or hostile work culture for female employees in the township.”

Councilor Peter Yacobellis had this to say.

“The fact that we’re here today is very frustrating. I think most people know I had a different course of action that I wanted us to pursue with respect to how at-will employment is defined. But here we are. He is entitled to ask for whatever he wants. Ultimately, much of this is going to be guided by our insurance carriers to the extent they would be covering any type of legal expense, including legal defense or a settlement. Usually if you want your coverage to kick in, you have to follow their rules.

We don’t yet know where this is going as there are many variables and considerations. In general, I’ve prioritized making sure our employees feel safe and comfortable at work over the possible financial and legal exposure caused by that approach. That is something one has to wrestle with in a leadership position and that was my choice. But my focus now, in addition to shifting the culture, will be protecting our tax dollars.”

Russo reiterated his call for a change in government, saying it was time to “take back our local government from bureaucratic dictators who are unaccountable and seeking power and compensation for their own gain.”

Montclair will have a chance for some kind of change in May 2024, when the next municipal elections are held.


83 replies on “Montclair Officials Anonymously Disclose Town Manager’s Million Dollar Settlement Demand”

  1. I hope the Council gets new attorneys soon. I simply can’t believe how much they are misguided by the ones they have now. The Manager did not have a contract and is an at-will employee. He can be fired with or without cause at any time. That’s the law. His performance flaws were very clear to all of us citizens, before we learned he was also verbally abusive to employees. The town attorney is in way over his head. I applaud Russo and Yacobellis for being the only ones to pull the fire alarm on what is a completely mismanaged scenario. I didn’t even realize we had a Mayor until he surfaces once every few weeks and offers some generic scripted comment. The Mayor in particular must be concerned given he’s worked for the longest period of time and more closely with Stafford than any of his peers.

  2. I think the part of the story most are missing is the fact that they are most likely negotiating because a specific council person ran his mouth against attorney advice. Remember that?

  3. pardonmyfrench,

    That not true. They are negotiating because of what happened last Spring.

  4. Really Frank. So, what happened last spring? Because what I have been watching is some loose lips and then all of a sudden we have a new indemnification thingy and we are negotiating with someone who will likely get a chunk of change on his way out the door.

  5. When exactly did you start watching? I called out the underlying problem publicly to the Council 18 months ago. I failed to follow-up though I knew those on the dais then and those in the audience wouldn’t. They were all focused on getting & giving money. I simply didn’t care enough to do more. I obviously regret my actions. I could have made a difference.

    Nevertheless, that and more than a few other red-flag instances happened (I didn’t see at the time). And then the crap really hit the fan all around. And round. And THEN that employee, a senior female executive, filed a formal complaint.

    Councilor Yacobellis was out of order, but true to form. Councilor Yacobellis waits for decision-time, measures the prevailing winds and does his little show. But, he is always towards the end. Last minute Peter did not drive this settlement figure.

    Ignore the ridiculous comparison the Mayor made to homeowners insurance. (He scares me more and more). The insurance carrier’s attorney has just one interest…his employer.
    Ask our County and State representatives how insurance regulation works in NJ. Not their spokespeople. The people who received our votes. It is time for them to step up and represent us…or get the hell out of the way.

    Look at the big picture. Look at what we should stand for. Attorneys are driving policy. Attorneys are driving our values. This is what Montclair is today.

  6. Who would have thought we would have a MAGA dude yanking everyone’s chain in the people’s republic of Montclair?

  7. @ pardonmyfrench (comment posted at 9:43am)

    It sounds like you are referring to comments Yacobellis made to the press after the CFO filed her lawsuit against the manager. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see how what Yacobellis said to the paper is problematic. If I remember correctly, all he said was that he had heard similar accounts from other female employees and that he was concerned about it. I don’t think he was lying, misrepresenting, deliberately harming, or breaching any confidentiality. After all, 4 brave women ended up coming forward and shining light on the abuse perpetrated by Stafford.

    My recollection is that in wake of Rao lawsuit several more women contacted the media with their own chilling accounts. It seems like Yacobellis just told the paper what some women had communicated to him. I think he also expressed compassion/concern. How is that grounds for a lawsuit? Stafford and his lawyer are simply bluffing so Stafford can get a boatload of money from the Town.

  8. I do not understand Spiller’s comment about a “possibility of waiving insurance coverage and ….” Is he out of his mind? If the insurance wants to throw a bone to Stafford, I guess I wouldn’t fight with them (assuming our deductible is not too high). If they don’t and they prefer to defend us in a lawsuit, that’s perfectly fine. I very much doubt that Stafford would actually file a suit – looks like all big fat bluff to me.

    That said, even if he sued, the cost of defense would be borne by insurance. If by “waiving the coverage” Spiller means a circumstance where insurance tells Stafford to go and sue while Spiller prefers to pay him off to go away quietly, Spiller better be prepared to pay that settlement from his own funds. I think there would be a riot if he dared to hand over taxpayer money to Stafford under the circumstances.

  9. @Wilhelm Keith
    My assumption is it’s about inadvertently waiving your protection, either by going outside the covered activities of your insurance (example: commenting on the matter when it needs to be done privately), or trying to handle the remediation outside the process laid out in the policy.

    Even commenting on it (besides a no comment) would likely have an adverse impact for Montclair during whatever negotiation is happening behind the scenes.

    That being said, I have no experience in the field, so just a wild guess. I don’t think anyone would actually voluntarily waive the insurance right when they’re needing it. But insurance companies love to find ways to get out of paying, so I’d imagine everyone should mind their discourse until the town is safe from litigation.

  10. Let’s put a name to our liability insurance provider and their attorney…since they are running the show here in town. They are setting the calendar. They are setting the order of business. Could we at least know the nameless entity and their nameless employees that are running our lives? Is that too much to ask? Seriously, this is one twisted situation and too many people are just not using common sense.
    Were acting like a bunch of Elmer Fudd.

    Totally Befuddled

    The newest Montclair yard sign

  11. Remember I posted months back about Montclair’s March Madness and and adding a Litigation Element to Montclair’s Master Plan? Something to bring some order to our unique legal milieu. Just reminding everyone because we have numerous other personnel matters to clean-up and we have many, many more attorneys coming that will be dictating to us.

    We need to immediately distribute color-coded name badges to these attorneys roaming the halls of the municipal bldg so we can protect privilege, respect confidential sub-processes, and know who is “read in” to which matters. This will allow for efficient queuing & processing @ future Executive Sessions (e.g. hey, Green Team, your turn!). The default order of business will be, yes…RGB.

  12. I can’t believe this! Negotiations with Stafford are shaping up to be another Glen Ridge fire deal!

    There should be NO settlement, period. The statute says clearly the outgoing manager gets 3-monnths severance and not a penny more. (unless the manager has a claim for damages, which I REALLY do not see here…) Former town attorney (Karasick) would know that. In fact, he was quoted above saying that he “was astonished that the township invited settlement negotiations”.

  13. @ F. Rubacky:
    I did some poking around. Our liability insurance is Garden State Joint Insurance Fund.

    @ all
    I echo Karasick in saying I’m shocked that the town is inviting any settlement negotiation with Stafford. Forget about optics and impropriety; I believe it is illegal to pay the manager anything above 3 months’ salary (about $54K in this case) in view of the Carrelli v. Caldwell case (unless there’s a claim for damages, which I do not see here). But I’m just a law school student.

  14. I am shocked that that the Town wants to ‘settle’ with Stafford. Why?? The man did bad things to the town and he mistreated women.

  15. Calvin: Amen.

    What the hell is going on here? If we don’t pay attention, Stafford will walk away with a bag of money laughing at us, just as he did when he got fired from Rutherford. No way! I can’t come to Tuesday’s council’s meeting but I will write to all of my friends about this. Unbelievable!

  16. thank you e. dellisanti. I wanted confirmation because I was watching a “can’t call in public comment any longer” Council mtg in early December. Our Acting CEO scheduled a presentation by the insurance consultants the Council retained to advise them. The consultants presented a comparable, lower cost alternative (IMAC) to GSJIF. I got the sense it was a Ford vs Chevy choice. My interest was piqued only because Mayor Spiller almost lost it from the git-go that a switch was being offered. The short of it was they stuck with GSJIF because…they allowed the township considerable say in the law firms that GSJIF selected to handle our cases. The Council voted against a lower fee schedule offered by IMAC so we could have a big say in who was hired by GSJIF. It seems we are particular about the law firms we have confidence in.

    So when the Council says “what can we do?”, they are hamstrung by insurance rules, just know they are having their way with your simple minds. And note the biggest pushback came from our favorite committee members – the Finance Committee. What an absolute shocker.

    What is the saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven days a week and twice on Easter Sunday, shame on me.

  17. When something seems amiss it is usually because something is amiss. Maybe the story isn’t as cut and dried as it appears. The court of public opinion with one side of story is not the same as a court of law.
    “There’s something happening here
    but what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

  18. @ F. Rubacky

    Astute observation. It’s not for nothing that we didn’t go with IMAC’s offer…

    @ flipside

    If it looks like a duck and walks like one… I hope Nancy Erica Smith will take Rao v. Montclair case all the way to trial. Otherwise, most of the Stafford/Spiller dirt discovered in discovery will remain secret. Anyway, I plan to watch oral argument in Rao’s case scheduled for April 20. Will post a link if the court allows it.

  19. There seems to be some confusion about how the Township’s insurance works. The Township is actually self-insured. We have a self insurance fund, managed by a committee appointed by the Manager. The Township is a member of the Garden State Joint Insurance Fund, to which we pay substantial fees (7 figures). The fund consists of a group of self insured public entities. Membership allows the members to spread the risks and thus hopefully lower the cost. IMAC is not an insurer but a risk manager. Recently, as best I could tell from watching the Council meeting, IMAC proposed that the Township should switch to a different JIF (Joint Insurance Fund) because it would be cheaper. It seems that this resolution was sprung on the Council without any warning. I don’t know if the proposed change was voted on or discussed at the Self Insurance Fund meeting as would be required by the Montclair Code. In any case the Council rejected the change.
    The internal procedure is basically that when a Notice of Claim is filed with the Township (required in a tort action), it is routinely sent to the GSJIF. If a lawsuit is subsequently filed against the Township or an employee, the complaint is immediately forwarded to the GSJIF, which will notify the Twp. if it will provide coverage and assign an attorney. This can get complicated if there are multiple parties or mixed claims (e.g. contracts, negligence, intentional torts), or both. The Township has a deductible (called an S.I.R.) which in my time was $50,000 in most instances. I hope this brief explanation helps, but there are still probably more questions than answers. I have no idea how the personnel lawsuits that are being discussed have been handled, so I (as a taxpayer) am concerned and baffled by what I read.

  20. Thank you very much Ira. This was immensely helpful. I also agree this new understanding raises many more questions. Unfortunately, the problem is still at the center no matter how we slice it. And clearly the Council dysfunction is but the tip of the iceberg.

    All signs point to multi-administration, systemic and fundamental deficiencies throughout our municipal government. Clearly the Jackson administration was operating at a much lower levels than I realized…reflecting my conscious & subconscious bias when faced with financial gains.

    The settlement exposure is a zero sum game. Whatever settlement premium the Township Manager gets will be offset by the settlement discount the CFO & Asst Clerk could get. And it is possible the Township will win one or both cases – the best possible outcome, legally speaking. And this is phase we clearly are in: the legally-speaking phase. But, it also means the politically-speaking phase is concluding. And the political results will be tallied shortly.

    Our future? Insurance will pay almost all the settlement costs. The attorneys fees are already baked into the budget. Any increase in future insurance premiums will not be itemized. Culturupt will provide the solutions to the municipal culture deficiencies. And the yard signs calling for better human behavior, or declaring the property’s inhabitants behave better than most, can come down.

  21. It is unfortunate that we appear to have gone from having a municipal attorney with significant relevant experience in municipal law, the litigation of significant cases and real estate development to a municipal attorney who as far as I can tell has none of the above. Since those are the three areas in which this Town requires ongoing legal advice this change appears to have produced foreseeable and unfortunate results.

  22. You may file under “Who Knew?”, but not me.

    The Township’s Self Insurance Fund has members who have regular public meetings, send meeting notices & keep minutes, etc, etc.

    I know this not because I have seen a meeting notice, an agenda, any minutes, know the members by name, or followed the disposition of cases. I have not seen it posted to the online calendar. I have not tried to OPMA/OPRA their existence. I know this because I rely on my faith that a supreme Self Insurance Fund exists…and also because Ira says so.

  23. @ Frank Rubacky

    Insurance will NOT pay all the settlement costs. And the attorney’s fees are NOT baked into the budget. Where do you get these ideas? Check out Riker Danzig’s payments in 2021 vs. in 2022. If insurance is covering these costs, we wouldn’t have seen the $155k budget transfer midway through the year.

    I do not understand your motive in promoting Culturupt. It is a politically connected shady outfit that Spiller is promoting for some reason. It hardly has any employees (and the three who have any HR experience were hired right around the time Culturupt contract with Montclair was awarded). They don’t even have a business email! I was astonished when the entire Council, including Yacobellis, jumped to enter into this contract paying Culturupt a whopping $560 per hour! To my knowledge, this is the highest hourly rate the Town has ever paid to any consultant.

  24. Council’s dysfunction is not the tip of the iceberg, it is the root cause of ALL our current problems. Spiller will earn the Worst Mayor of All Times award, hands down!

    Ira’s comment is indeed educational. Hope Burr learned something from it and can use for the good of the town before he gets out next month.

    Frank, as usual, you seem confused about the complexities of municipal administration. During Jackson administration, things ran smoothly. The focus was on betterment of the town rather than on politics or self-advancement. Things got accomplished without fuss or fanfare. There were hardly any lawsuits, certainly no big ones like right now.

    I do not understand why you are supporting payment to Stafford and rooting for the CFO and Deputy Clerk to lose. They were are the victims. Stafford was the abuser. In what world does the abuser get to walk away with a $1M award?

    Anyway, if you truly want the Town to win, you should focus on the root cause of the problem. It was the oppressive environment that caused these brave women to come out even though they knew they would be judged by people like you who paint them as greedy.

    1. The Town needs a competent, knowledgeable, and experienced attorney. The council does not seem capable of choosing one. Maybe a civilian board’s involvement is needed here. There is no shortage of competent lawyers in this town. Another idea: why can’t we reach out to Joe Hartnett for a referral? He was a good manager and he knows lots of qualified professionals.

    2. The Town should not pay to Stafford a penny more than the 90 days salary from February 7th. We should make sure of it.

  25. discipulus,

    Seriously? Right off the bat I know you don’t go for accuracy because we can’t transfer money mind-year. It is the law. You might want to dial the attitude back a notch.

    Second, you should acquaint yourself with all the transfers last year. You will get some insight. Heard of following the money? It is not my job to educate you, but look up R-22-222 & 22-249 for starters. Then work your way back.

    Culturupt, like many in this space, are somebodies who got educated, put together a training program, and put out a shingle – yet, probably gets their business from “referrals”. I hope you aren’t a Democrat.

    They target entities like the Township Montclair that entered the 21st century without ever a thought to or a budget for (see R-22-222 transfers, again!) diversity training. Did that come out of S&W or OE? Does it matter when it come to the Township HR Dept? Who was the de facto head of HR last year?

    Glad you could join us and I take your point. But, consider my point that anything is better than nothing and the Democratic Machine got to our checkbook out before you could say word one. There is A LOT of training to come. It will take a lot to get us out of the Stone Age.

    And if you want talk of the slush funds, did you ever wonder, for a second, how the Fire Dept was able to transfer $405K out of their budget last year?

  26. Frank Rubacky:

    What do you mean by zero-sum game? Current settlement discussions with Stafford have nothing to do with the future outcome of the two lawsuits filed by female employees. LAD/CEPA lawsuits normally take 1.5 to 2 years. I doubt the GSJIF will give Stafford anything. If they do, we will be on the hook for $50K (according to what Ira said earlier). Council better think twice before secretly cutting Stafford a check from our money. In what sick world does the abuser get to walk away with a $1M award??

    I don’t get why you are dragging Jackson administration into this. From what I know, Jackson administration was a well-oiled machine, and one that wasn’t dirty.

  27. “I don’t get why you are dragging Jackson administration into this.” -Calvin Williams Jr.

    The composition of this Council’s 4-person majority is the same majority as the Mayor Jackson oversaw in his administration’s 2 terms.

    I didn’t drag them in. They keep running for office and we keep electing them to office.

    Of course, many here think Councilor Yacobellis is a model of the next-gen councilor position. Which, combined with your logic, means I can then only blame 2 Councilors – Price Abrams and Cummings – for this Council’s dysfunction.

    Now Mayor Jackson never got the level of credit he felt he deserved, so I think it is fair we hold him to a lesser level of blame. As a leader.

    Yes, “slush” was a loaded term. I couldn’t think of the word for when you legally create an intentionally opaque reserve for when undesirable things may arise that you want to be able to handle internally (with discretion and discretionary) without making a very noticeable & pubic thing about it. Of course, I understand who would want to appropriate 6- or 7-figure amount to a transparent, more accurately named account call Our Rainy Day Fund or Oops-A-Dailsy account. Lastly, if you run it by a committee review, you get Council oversight without the public. Another Montclair Win-Win. We’re on a roll!

  28. Pat,

    You know what is scary? Yes, I often get confused about the complexities of muni admin, but what does that indicate about the public at large? I consider myself semi-literate in this area. Does that mean a great deal of townsfolk are likewise confused or simply illiterate? Maybe if I become less literate I’ll find more bliss.

    As far as the lawsuits, you don’t read for comprehension. I’ve stated & reiterated my support for the CFO numerous times. However, being old, very worldly, and locally knowledgable, 🙂 the likely outcome is increasingly not in her favor. Factors that favor Mr Stafford award request will work against Ms Rao’s renumeration (e.g. the finding of no hostile workplace) and vice versa. The rub is in the time sequence.

    You and others didn’t want to hear it. Disregard it.

    The ensuing & disturbing behavior since December has only solidified my prediction… and I think you and others afraid it is becoming reality.

    Montclair has a deep aversion, bordering on disdain for any meaningful political hindsight. It is also one of the symptoms of any long-standing political machine. What you need to understand is that omission creates a blindspot for us in fully considering present day circumstances and vetting long-term solutions.

  29. @ Frank Rubacky

    1. Follow the $155K transfer made into the law department’s budget in 2022. It DID happen, as discipulus said. Who was it for? I’ll give you a hint. Check payments to outside counsel from 2021 vs. 2022.

    2. McKinsey charges a fee comparable to that of Culturupt, but with clear plan, deliverables, and proven track record. They are professionals, not Murphy’s buddies.

    3. As usual, you said a lot by not saying that Stafford should not be allowed to hold the town at ransom. If he has dirt on anyone, let it come out.

  30. @ Frank Rubacky (10:56am today)

    You are right that current Council contains 4 holdovers from Jackson administration. What you conveniently omit is that they all ‘behaved’ under Jackson. He knew how to keep everyone in line and how to maintain integrity and decorum of government while getting stuff done. I think he deserves credit for that. He turned the township around during his 8 years in the office while you were sitting and tirelessly typing your inscrutable missives.

    Things started going down the hill soon after he left. Ira held down the fort for a while but after he was gone, Stafford “collapsed”, the Council went nuts, and it all spiraled into the zoo we have now.

  31. @ Frank (12:06pm)

    Frank, would you like to consult with an attorney who handles plaintiff LAD/CEPA cases? What you just said makes no sense. Based on what is publicly known, the Town has no right to send Stafford off with anything beyond 3 months salary. If they do, they will get in trouble as I foresee a citizen lawsuit. It would be an easy win as the New Jersey Supreme Court has recently ruled on this (in Carelli v. Caldwell case someone mentioned earlier). Look it up.

    Further, awarding any money to Stafford (aside from being sheer insanity) would NOT weaken the CFO’s case in any way. It would make it stronger as in it would show that the Town rewarded the perpetrator.

  32. Although I hesitate to enter into the discussion of individual Council members (which would not be pretty}, I think that the larger point is important. The prior Council worked together as a unit, had functioning committees, listened to (but by no means always agreed with) experts, and interacted positively and productively (most of the time) with the staff. They received an early baptism when Hurricane Sandy hit a few months after the Councilors took office. The Council met every day for ten days and worked with outside agencies, PSEG and Township staff to maintain services and restore damaged facilities. The subsequent achievements of that Council over two complete terms are well documented. The present Council, to the contrary, exists in name only. These are seven ego-driven individuals who appear uninterested and incapable of working as a team or seriously addressing issues in a concerted fashion, exacerbated by a glaring lack of leadership. Instead, individual Council members contact and engage staff on their own, promote themselves to the public taking credit where credit is not due, purport to negotiate with developers and vendors on behalf of the Township (they can’t do that), and for the first time ever (I believe), actually sue residents and taxpayers for speaking truth to power at a Council meeting. Paralysis is the policy, politics the motivation. Lack of teamwork is the debilitating force that assures failure, and that is scary, given the number of significant decisions facing the Council. But that’s a whole other subject.

  33. Calvin Williams Jr.,

    YPT 1. I can tell you, and you can see for yourself the the majority of that $155K transfer didn’t go to Riker Danzig. But, your error did prompt me go back through the money trail and…

    I think we need an audit of the payment accounts, budget transfers, and changes to contract NTEs specifically to our legal operations.

    I understand sloppy, I understand typos, I understand unplanned things pop up, but what I am reading is of concern to me. Apparently the increasingly common occurrence of revising up our contract NTEs is of serious concern to our Acting Twnshp Mgr…and he shared his concern in open session. Ouch. I know you understand why regularly exceeding NTE contract amounts can be a bad thing.

    YPT 2. I think McKinsey is a way inappropriate alternative to be offering diversity training in these circumstances.

    YPT 3. I wouldn’t do a lot of what this ENTIRE Council has done. I would not pay Mr Stafford anything more in compensation than what he has accrued to date. I understand NDAs but don’t believe in employer NDAs for severance benefits and apparently the courts agree. But, I also would have been all over my Council colleagues every month in get first half of 2022. I would have ripped them for even entertaining a sealed bid process…and they would deserve it. They are thoughtless and quite frankly, dimwitted when it comes to managing township business. I do not value their service.

    I think the last straw – which I posted here some time ago – was when the Township represented Mr Stafford’s behavior as boorish. I would have loved to have been in the room when they were discussing legal strategy and decided to use this term. I was initially ‘speechless’ when I read about it being used. And then I thought, this is the town that signed off on 25 yrs of horrible contract terms for our fire services to Glen Ridge. And a majority of the town was OK with that. So, I figure $1.2MM is nothing to get by underwear in a bunch over if this town doesn’t care.

  34. Pat,

    We are each speaking to two different matters. I agree with you that additional severance is legally prohibited. But this doesn’t involve severance. Not sure what that has to do with the price of eggs.

    It seems to me the Township’s position is the CFO’s complaint does not meet the legal definition of a hostile workplace. The CEO’s complaint seems to be the Township maligned him and he is losing his job. Because of something the township says didn’t happen in the CFO’s case. Furthermore, the Council’s independent attorney’s report reportedly recommends anger mgmt counseling. I can’t explain, if accurately reported, the Council’s independent attorney review giving such a recommendation (remember these are people with a license to practice law, not medicine). Do you think the independent attorney thought the CEO’s behavior did not warrant termination, but some personal training would make him a better chief executive?

    And what do think the chances the judge in the CFO’s case is going to find differently? OK, 60/40? 40/60? Maybe it is a crapshoot. OK, does the CFO want to go through with a trial or maybe take a settlement?

    OK, say everyone goes with a settlement. Odds are no one feels good about this afterwards. A little latent resentment from some unresolved anger, add in some trust issues, and a culture that is still a work in progress as far as treating women equally.

    And then there is the opposite scenario.

  35. “Independent” attorney hired by the Council through a no-bid contract reportedly recommended that Stafford take anger management classes. I have a couple of questions:

    1) Wasn’t this investigation about what happened rather than about providing therapy recommendations?

    2) If this “independent” expert is providing recommendations (anger management), why do we need the “Culturecurrupt” at $560/hr?

    What is also interesting is that the Council members claim they did not read the report (at the advice of their legal counsel). Is it true? If so, do they not realize they not only have right, they have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to read both Morgan and Lindabury report given that Timothy Stafford is their direct hire?

    I’m curious which lawyer tells them they can’t read investigation reports concerning their direct hires. Is it Burr? Is it DeVito? Is it Derrick Freijomil from Riker Danzig? To quote Deirdre Birmingham, “ I wanna know”.

    We, taxpayers, pay for the legal advisors so, attorney-client privilege notwithstanding, we have the right to know which attorney (in house or outside) sticks us with a bad deal here.

  36. Hey Frank, you said that budget transfers can’t happen mid-year.

    Then someone proved you wrong – $155K got transferred to the Law Department mid 2022.

    Your reaction: “majority of that $155K didn’t go to Riker Danzig”.

    I looked it up. $105K of that $155K went to increase Riker’s contract. I’m not a math whiz, but $105 is more than 50% of 155, no?

    Let me break it down for you: the original 2022 Riker contract was $50K (R-21-249). Then it got increased by $75K (R-22-244). And then by $30K (R-23-042).

  37. You know what would be a great plot twist for those watching in Verona, Cedar Grove, Little Falls, Clifton, and The Oranges?

    The Garden State GIF attorneys telling us to accept Mr Stafford’s offer to reinstate him because the GSGIF’s payout is $700,000 less.

    The choices are being driven by the money. Clearly, if GSGIF is unconcerned with the post-settlement ramifications, this should be their logical recommendation to us. Of course, we have the option to decline and then we are on our own. Right? There are rules to follow, as we have been told.

    So, the Council reinstating Mr Stafford as CEO is clearly the optimal choice. The attorneys have spoken. Don’t screw this up Councilors. This is a layup. Obvious. C’mon, you can do it.

  38. I do not understand why you act like an expert on muni-matters when you seem so confused on many things. You often get stuff straight wrong. Sometimes it’s kinda funny, but it’s a also problem because you end up spreading misinformation.

    It can be harmful given fraught circumstances and need for public understanding what is going on with our government. Please consider that next time you willy-nilly present something as a fact without verifying it. Some of us have full time jobs and don’t have time to do fact-checking of your daily prolific output.

  39. Calvin,
    Seriously glad we can be on a first name basis.

    OK, you are conflating fund transfers (that are at a department level) with increasing an independent contractor’s existing contract’s maximum value. The good news is we seem to agree that the various transactions happened.

    But, there is the timing issue. And a timing issue related to non-fair & open contracts. And if you look at the timing & resolution wording closely, you will see the funds were already in the accounts. In fact, I think there should be blanket purchase orders lying about.

    So why would there be a need to transfer money in? Don;t get hung up that the $155,000 figure. You are assuming because the figures are the same they are for the same purpose.

    As an aside, did you notice the funds transfer resolution sent an additional $200K to the liability insurance cost center. And did you notice where the Council took the funds from? The Police Dept’s wages.

  40. @ Calvin at 7:55,

    I am not an expert. I am self-taught on most of the muni stuff. I struggle at basic accounting. Yes, I am wrong at times. I generally admit it.

    What I am good at is holding people to what they say they are or will do. And if they don’t, asking for an explanation why the deviation. And in Montclair, after reading my share of documents week in, week out, there are a lot of mistakes being made.

    I am pretty decent at quality assurance. I think Montclair government has a lot of quality problems and lacking in its controls. In this kind of environment, I try not to rely on single source documents – even if they are official resolutions. Where a government inhibits transparency and participation, my experience is quality suffers in a very material way.

    Don’t take my word for it. Just read Bnet’s article on the GR water pumping contract? There is no excuse for something like that to happen. None. Repercussions? Nope. An oops and a thank you.

    I think the law dept finances are a red flag. The amount of non-fair & open contracts are a red flag. The NTE revisions are a red flag. Council Russo pointed out his own red flag. The red flags are everywhere. I have don’t ever recall coming across so many red flags in a government function.

    Yes, I’m not an expert. I try to always provide facts along with my opinions. This way, if people disagree with me, they can disregard the opinion…at least I have informed. I will put this disclaimer on all my posts going forward if you think it will assist the readers’ ability to qualify the voices on this site. Actually, just my voice – which they don’t know yet.

  41. F. Rubacky:

    What’s Garden State GIF? You mean Garden State JIF? As I explained previously, GSJIF stands for Garden State Joint Insurance Fund. I very much doubt they will want to pay ANYTHING to Stafford before he files an actual lawsuit (because they know he has no grounds). If they decide to throw him a bone, we will be on the hook for $50,000 of that bone. Ira Karasick said above that this is our deductible. Sure, let’s throw some good money after the bad.

  42. True to my word, I made a mistake and GS JIF is the correct form. I apologize.

    As to what GSJIF will do….watch and learn.

  43. Frank, I am not conflating anything.

    1. Riker Danzig started out with a $50K contract and, after two increases, ended up with $155K.

    2. Genova Burns started with $40K and, after two increases, ended up with $120K.

    3. Lindabury McCormick started out with $10K and ended up with $27K after one increase.

    Evidently, Law Department could keep up with funding its need for outside counsel only up to a point. Eventually, they needed a budget transfer and it was done in the amount of $155K (I’ll give you the date if you can’t find it on e-code). It’s a pure coincidence that it is the same dollar figure as the total of Riker contract. Are we now on the same page with this?

    I agree with your take on the Law Department. The two attorneys are unfit and have to go. Not only because their spending on outside counsel is up the wazoo; they are both clueless about municipal law. Burr is hopeless, period. DeVito seems more intelligent and better spoken but she doesn’t know squat about relevant local and state law.

    Your ‘legal’ analysis’ (in all of its various iterations over time) continues to be silly. I happen to have certain familiarity with employment law. But keep trying, Frank (if you must). I’ll try to be charitable. You’re not the “man” on this, so keep that in mind. I do not like anyone spreading misinformation, in particular when it affects my town and my taxes. Barista has become an important hence valued news outlet lately. Let’s treat it as such. Instead of saying rubish and competing, let’s try to share actual knowledge and learn from one another.

  44. Amen. The ball is in the GSJIF’s court really. Do they want to stick us with $50,000 in deductible to make Mr. Stafford happy? If so, shame of them! I want that $50,000 to go to the pools. Or to the library. Or to the ice arena! (my 3 grandchildren and my neighbors kids do figure skating). I do not understand why Mr. Yacobellis or Mr. Russo have not yet proposed the final resolution for removal of the incompetent and abusive manager. What gives? I want to see with my own eyes which of the 7 would vote no on it.

    Going back, now I know why the Council decided to stay with the GSJIF rather than switching to the better deal suggested by IMAC (Town’s risk manager) a few months ago. The Council doesn’t want to (or knows how to) contain litigation so they chose to keep paying massive premium to the GSJIF so they can have an army of lawyers at their disposal. Mr. Karasick said above that we pay them a 7-figure premium!

    Interestingly, from what I understand, sticking with the GSJIF or switching to another (less costly) JIF was not really the Council’s decision. According to former town attorney Mr. Karasick who chimed in above, there is some other formal muni-board that was supposed to make that call. Why didn’t it? And why didn’t the current town attorney tell the Council about that board? I’m so sick and tired of this continued chaos!

    I never had any interest in muni-matters, btw. I shouldn’t have to. Local government is supposed to operate smoothly and quietly in the background, as it did in the past. It’s a shame and a problem that our leadership decided to leave the leading to someone like Mr. Stafford who is clearly unfit for running operations and then hired legal counsel with zero experience. I’m really shocked by their lack of discerning and their happy-go-lucky attitude. I’m a scientist by training, so managing, lawyering, finance, etc. are foreign to me. As such, if I were a Council person, I would want to hire experts in those fields (with proven track record) so they can properly, competently, and independently handle the areas I am not familiar with myself. Instead, our Council seem to hire their friends/cronies who exacerbate the chaos! Ms. Nieves (municipal clerk and Mr. Stafford’s former secretary) and Mr. Burr (interim town attorney and Mr. Cummings’ neighbor) are prime examples of cronyism combined with utter incompetence.

    Council members: Quit wasting our money! You are clueless yourselves so start hiring professionals who have a clue. And don’t you dare to indemnify yourself on our dime. That indemnification ordinance you are about to vote on is a disgrace and it is very see-through. You should be ashamed of yourselves for ever introducing it. I hope the Attorney General will see this just as clearly as we do.

    I have never voted in municipal elections but I am so voting in 2024. So will my neighbors and family. This pathetic circus must end.

  45. I defer to more productive income generating citizens whose time is more valuable than seniors that have their days and weekends free. No worries. You just reiterated the suburban social covenant wide live by here. This is why citizens who work for a living don’t support a senior center here. They are very particular about where their tax dollars go.

    Quickly, you are getting closer on understanding the finances. You are still assuming and you still need to get up to speed on Not To Exceed resolutions, Non- Fair & Open Contracts and the legal purpose of Certificate of Funds. Do what you want with this.

    My ‘legal’ analysis is certainly silly as I have no legal training or education. In fact, it might be ridiculous. I think I have made it worse by injecting political considerations and motivations. With 7 politicians here having a food fight, I do wonder how the attorneys can wrangle this motley assortment of clients. You can’t learn anything from me. You are the man here. Have at it.

  46. ChungAAPI,

    You buried the lead: “I have never voted in municipal elections but I am so voting in 2024.”

  47. Wait, seven-figure premium?! So we can pay $1.2M to Stafford?! Whisky Tango Foxtrot! These guys better stop before there is a riot in the republic of Montclair!

    Hey, Council: you are out of your collective mind!

    Although, to be fair, the 4 of them did the right thing by going to the press and disclosing the $1.2M bombshell. I want to know who are the 3 that got “told on”. I hope this comes out and that they get skewered for wanting to reward Stafford for the s*it he did.

  48. I don’t think it’s the right thing to anonymously disclose confidential information discussed in an executive session of the Council to the press. The four Council members could have voted to make the information public if they had bothered to talk to each other.
    A couple of other comments. If you look at the 2023 Introduced Budget on the Township website, there is a line for “Liability Insurance” showing a proposed appropriation of $1,870,555, which is an increase over the appropriation of $1,500,000 in the 2022 Budget and over the 2022 line as modified by transfers of $1,700,000. This is the “seven-figure premium” I was referring to previously. Also, look at Montclair Code Chapter 31 “Insurance Fund.” Section 31-6 sets forth the powers of the Commissioners. This is the entity I identified in an earlier post.

  49. I’m confused, but I’m surrounded by lawyers.
    I understood the settlement offer came from Mr Stafford. Why would the offer be considered confidential? And can the offer be OPRA’d?

    Now, if the Council discloses the legal advice it is being given or the questions & comment their peers are asking, then I think it is very inappropriate to disclose without first telling your peers you may do this.

  50. Impropriety? Really? I will worry about impropriety when I’m done pulling what’s left of my hair over the utter chaos, waste, and dysfunction that this disaster of a Council is perpetrating on the Town. Spiller’s slogan is “Progress in Action”. How about “Corruption in Action”? I hear our ambitious Mayor has gubernatorial aspirations so I’m just trying to be helpful with catchy campaign slogans.

    Frank and Ira: if you meant it would be improper/not right under normal circumstances, then I’ll agree with you two. Given the abnormal and appalling context, the 4 did the right thing. Kudos.

    My guess would be 2 of the 3 who want to pay Stafford off are Spiller and Hurlock. I guess the likely 3rd would be Spiller’s faithful “extension”, Price-Abrams. I doubt Stafford has dirt on her; she just doesn’t know any better and she is beholden to Spiller. The whole thing is gross, just gross.

    If Schlager is one of the 4, I will forgive her the bridge. If Cummings is one of the 4, well done David – but it’s not nearly enough to offset saddling the Town with Burr. What the ‘foxtrot’ (to quote the uncouth dellisanti) were you thinking?

  51. I said early last Fall to recall the lot of them. All I got was a lot of mumbling. And now I just love how Montclair is starting to pay attention because their friends from other towns and NYC are making fun of them. You live in Montclair? They ask what’s the deal? So now they are embarrassed.

    I think it is highly entertaining. We’ll have a bad 4 years and then get a new Council. Maybe we can even get a reset and a new form of government. Whatever we do, we will not hold ourselves accountable for our really poor choices. Did anyone do any due diligence. Did anyone ask the candidates insightful questions? We elected a Mayor that was confused over ethics. We’re not the brightest lights in this County anymore.

    So, understand your fellow residents are really not up to it and sit back and enjoy the show. If you are worried about the tax increase, just cancel Netflix and you will be fine.

  52. Wow, Just simply wow. Watched some of the April 12th council meeting, it left me speechless. Does our council members even know that they are on camera? Do they even care? The meeting again, turned into a dysfunctional heated shouting match, with members trying to out shout each other. Have they no shame? Are they not embarrassed? I’m embarrassed for them. Do they even like each other? What i witnessed last night was a bunch of juvenile narcissistic personalities going out it. It was a slugfest. I guess thats what happens, when you have very little, or no leadership capabilities. What did stand out was this, why are they refusing to pass a ban on gas leaf blowers? Why are certain council members leaking information discussed in executive session? This sounds like a violation of the states ethics rules (in my opinion), would hate to mis-speak and get sued. And why now, does this council see a need to introduce and quickly move an ordinance, to cover their backsides against lawsuits ? I see self serving egotist everywhere. And finally, to even think about or discuss rewarding a town manager with large sums of cash, after alleged bad acts have become public, is incomprehensible. Where is the leadership, I guess that requirement was left off the resumes, when this council was elected. I make no claims to be a politician, but I do know bad governance when I see it, and this is as bad as it gets.

  53. Frank,
    Since you are up on things….I assume an independent council investigated the Stafford allegations. They must have, right? Have the findings been made public? If not, will they be? Something tells me the townspeople are not getting the full story. I am curious why Stafford would sue and why a reputable attorney would take the case…unless….as the old song goes, Things That Make You Go hmmmm.

  54. Yes.
    No. (I know, I answered Yes above)

    Let’s see. Stafford was hired as Interim Mgr in 2014. He became Mgr in 2020. I read somewhere he was a superior negotiator.

  55. flipside,

    I will call your attention to the two motions pending before the judge in the Rao case. In short, they both relate to whistleblower related behavior. One is for alleged unlawful retaliation and the other is to limit a whistleblower’s access to certain matters. Note the focus of the original complaint. The focus now seems to be whistleblowing. Everyone seems to be enamored with speaking out of school… for only the right reasons.

    Now we have Mr Stafford’s offer to go away for $1.2MM or return to the fold for $500K. The objective of the alternate option strikes me as just slapping the Township around. Quite the bold choices offered.

    Now, let’s assume the Council majority really wants to get rid of him, but they act hesitant. As their attorney pointed out, the actions of the Councilors should be guided by the best interests of the Township and its taxpayers. Let’s also say each of the Council members is at a different stage of understanding of what is in the best interests of the taxpayers. And it is not like they can have a class to get catch up and on the same page.

    Add in the recent dots and a pencil.

  56. Frank,
    So, except for the conclusion that Stafford didn’t create a hostile work environment no other information from the independent council’s investigation is available? Is that correct? That make me think that in a court of law Stafford gets paid. In a court of public opinion and emotion the women get paid. Sounds like a lose/lose for Montclair. Maybe the Montclair political mantra should be, “We are going to lose so much you are going to get tired of losing.”

  57. No, flipside, we are dealing with lawyers. Think of it as a Zero Sum, 3-D tic-tac-toe game for attorneys.

    You need to pay attention. The Council, per resolution, stated:

    WHEREAS, the Township has a continued need for specialized legal counsel to conclude investigation of allegations of hostile work environment against the Township Manager reported in Baristanet and Montclair Local on October 19 and 21, 2022;”

    However, the purpose of this resolution was for the Council to more than double the Not To Exceed contract amount from $10K to $27.5K to the law firm charged with a task with this mission. I kid you not. They had to refute or confirm was was written in – and only in – the media. Not the internal EEO report.

    As I said before, we need to have a forensic audit (like what the Council did to the library folk) of our bids & RFQs, their contracts and payments to these outside law firms. I have lost confidence in the wherewithal of the CFO and the independent auditor. I am biased as the current legal issues seem, to me, to create a conflict situation as both called out the Council on a matter that the State Attorney General has undertaken an investigation.

  58. Feel free to contemplate any part of this and I dare anyone not come aware with a big “huh?” This is Montclair. Yes, people, this is Montclair. You all belong. This is you.

  59. Hey, Frank and flipside – why don’t the two of you go to law school? Another option, read relevant statute and case law. Yet another, call an attorney who practices employment law for a living, pay for an hour of his time, present specifics of the case (to the extent that you know) and get professional opinion. For your information, all filings in this matter are public documents and are available for review on the NJ judiciary website.

    But why do that when it’s so much easier to sit down and quickly type the first thing that comes to mind, ideally in opposition to whatever others say, facts/law/rationality notwithstanding. I mean, who wants to actually read court filings?

    Hey Frank, what do you think of Stafford’s Notice of Claim? You know what that is, right? I am sure you have OPRA’d it before ‘opining’ on validity of his ‘claim’. To do otherwise would be silly. And also lazy.

  60. I am being lazy. Guilty. Oh wait, I need to hire a lawyer. I will do more research, but first I would like to understand what was the point beyond your criticism? I’m happy you get your information from Newark. BTW, I was jilted by the State and the Courts before. We’re all watching the quality control at the pinnacle of your industry and the titans (both Dem & Rep appointees) of the 3rd branch of govt for something called ethics. Which apparently they have been lacking for decades.

    Apparently, if you complete the first year of law school you are basically ahead of many practicing lawyers in this country. I understand the first year is heavy in basic teaching of ethics. Maybe because it isn’t really complicated.

    So, don’t hold your industry up as some last word thing. It is far from it. I just put Congress ahead of it in overall ethics. And that, as you know, is a branch has more than a few ethics problems.

  61. Frank,

    Why do you think I get my information from Newark?

    You don’t NEED to hire a lawyer. You are not a party to any of this. I only suggested consulting with one because you keep ‘opining’ on the matter and some of your ‘opining’ makes no sense. As such, I figured maybe you might potentially educate yourself by speaking to a professional, if you were curious enough and so inclined.

  62. I need to OPRA a Notice of Claim? I just can’t walk into the Law Dept and ask for a copy? Taxpayers spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on hiring all these attorneys last year. Who knows what we will spend this year. The attorneys are getting paid. Do you think the township could just put in a taxpayer help desk to access all these documents in one place…since we are the ones being sued?

    And if I have to start OPRA filings, I’m going after the electronic devices of everyone and the backups. Do you think the voice mails , texts, etc on Township supplied & operated devices (& accounts) might augment my understanding of the Mr Stafford’s complaint. And let’s not forget copies of the virtual meetings. Even if one member or outsider joined via zoom, there is a record. That reminds me…the Self Insurance Commissioners probably met virtually. The Clerk’s Office will need a 6-figure infusion of funds to handle all this OPRA volume.

    My passions is land use. The Township is pretty good about posting documents related to land use, applications, reports, etc. etc. Considering the number of attorneys and cases, maybe the Township web site might want to post all claims & filings here vs trying to query & navigate the State sites. As you pointed out, I would have to go to the State site AND file a OPRA request here to piece together an informed view of the cases. It seems every attorney and their partners have ready access and us laypeople have to really work it to get up to speed. Oh right, your industry is so very amazing.

  63. Darnell,
    It wasn’t sudden. The court is in Newark. Calvin pointed out that that I should read the filings to understand the cases. Hence, my reference to Newark. Except he confirmed that the document that matters can only be accessed via OPRA request from Township Hall. So, we can safely ignore the information coming out of Newark if we want to get up to speed on the settlement scenario.

    The funny thing is the Township site has the Claim Form on its web site, but not the claims themselves that taxpayers are being subject to…even though they are public docs. I have been wondering why Councilor Yacobellis has been singled out in the Councilor’s resolutions for Executive Session discussion matters for some time now. I had assumed that the settlement offer happened after a notice of claim had been received, but now I am not sure. I am also confused as to when the various lawyers became involved., e.g. the GSGIF lawyers, and the anonymous disclosures by the 4 Council members. And why do I have to OPRA something they seem to be legally entitled to disclose to the media, ethics aside.

    In short, my experience has been that if I want to understand something, I should always go to the people closest to the matters in question…and we can now see that Town Hall is closest and best informed.

  64. Cal,
    Why would I need to go to law school? I have Frank. You could be useful too but you choose to be opaque and above it all. Quite frankly, I don’t care enough to put too much if any effort into investigating what did or didn’t happen. I take a very simple approach to things. Lawyers tend to take cases they can win. The fact that an experienced lawyer took the Stafford case makes me think he can win against the town. What do I know? Nothing, except good lawyers like good surgeons strive to have good batting averages. That is how they become known as “good.” Forgive me for my simple ways. I was raised a hick and spent too much of my youth on the farm.

  65. Calvin,

    I know you are now telling us to focus on the Notice of Claim, but for purposes of general enlightenment, I did open Riker Danzig’s 4/10/23 brief on there Twnshp’s requested Order of Protection. Yikes.

  66. I guffawed at Footnote 8 on pg 24 where Riker Danzig cites the Township’s efforts to “unring the bell”. Yes, they actually argued this in a brief that I think rings a bell that can not ever be un-rung. It gives me no lasting satisfaction in being right as this was predictable…as I imagine many CEPA lawyers know. I wish I was wrong.

  67. Frank,

    Quit deflecting and tell us what you think about Stafford’s Notice of Claim. You do have it, don’t you? I’m dying to hear.

    Further, I’m still curious why you mentioned Newark in you earlier comment to me. Can you please clarify? “I wanna know”. (credit to Deirdre Birmingham)


    Nancy Erica Smith took the case. Why don’t you call her and ask why she took the case. In the alternative, you can keep speculating.

  68. I see your point, flipside. However, Nancy Erika Smith and Pat Toscano are not in the same category. As is true for any industry, some practitioners of law are better than others. Those who struggle, take every client who walks through the door and “give it a shot”. On the other end of the spectrum are those who thrive and make a killing financially. The latter ones carefully evaluate cases and can afford to be selective, i.e. only pick cases that are rock solid and/or those they find ‘meaningful’ in some way. Nancy Erika Smith belongs in the latter category. Now go read the second sentence of this paragraph.

    You said earlier I was being opaque. My intention is the opposite of being opaque so I’m a bit disappointed in myself. If I’m spending time posting comments on Barista it’s because I’m trying to shed light on some stuff that I can grasp easier/quicker than a layperson simply by virtue of being in the industry. Clearly, I’m not doing a good job. I’ll try harder.

    How about we try this. Feel free to ask me direct questions and I will answer them as clearly as possible based on what information I have at my disposal. I will continue spending time doing this because I can afford it and I find this discussion meaningful.

    Frank: (1) Forget about Newark. I somehow missed your explanation above. (2) Yes, technically, you should be able to walk into law the department or clerk’s office and obtain a copy of Notice of Claim. Will it work? Given current culture of secrecy at the town hall, you may have to be ‘assertive’…

  69. As far as my ‘opaqueness’, a few of my straightforward comments didn’t make it through moderation. I don’t resent that at all; I think it’s wise of Liz George to be careful.

    Still and all, we must figure out ways to share information in one way or another. It is critical given what’s at stake.

  70. Cal,
    Since you have expertise in this area and I don’t please give me your insight. I assumed these are two different cases. Stafford vs Montclair is case number 1 and case number 2 is one or two women vs Montclair and Stafford. That’s why I quipped that this is a lose/lose for the town. Stafford could win his case against Montclair and the two women can win their case against Montclair and perhaps Stafford as well. I guess all party could also settle. Is that a possibility or am I all wet?

  71. Flip, you are correct, two different cases. Except that Stafford doesn’t really have a case as he did NOT file anything with the court. From what I see, he has no case. What he does have is history of extorting money by threatening to sue as he is getting fired. This is laughable. The Town should stay strong and tell him to file or to take a walk.

  72. It is comforting that even though we do not seem to have a Municipal Attorney qualified to advise on or handle significant litigation we appear to at least have a lawyer on Baristanet that does.

  73. I wanted to thank Calvin, Frank, and Flipside for having this discussion here. Enlightening, indeed.

  74. Cal,
    Past history aside and purely speculation on my part, could: Because the independent council found that Stafford didn’t create a hostile environment would he win against the town if he filed? Is it cheaper for the town to settle than to have a trial expense, lose, and perhaps have to pay Stafford’s legal bills? Whether people think it is laughable, unethical, immoral, or any other take someone may have is irrelevant. I assume the town will take the cheapest easiest way out.
    On the hand, could the women win or or most likely settle because of the social climate and the town’s progressive reputation?

  75. Flip,

    Remember, Stafford is being let go because the Town wants to go in a “different managerial direction”. No need to show any cause. If he went ahead and filed papers in the Superior Court, the Town would file a motion to dismiss and it would most likely win – there simply is no there there. If Stafford’s case didn’t get killed on motion to dismiss (before the exchange of discovery), it would not survive summary judgment motion (post discovery). Litigation, if any, would be handled by an attorney assigned by the GSJIF so there would be no cost to the Town. The Town would be stupid to give Stafford a penny above what he is entitled to by statute. So, to answer your question, this IS the cheapest way out as far as Stafford’s “case”. I am beyond surprised that the GSJIF is even entertaining any sort of negotiations at this stage. Stafford should be told to take a hike. He likely has dirt on Spiller who is trying to keep him on payroll as long as possible to keep him quiet.

    Think twice about just how “independent” is the outside counsel that got hired to examine allegations of hostile work environment? Kathleen Connelly, Esq. of Lindabury McCormick got hired by a non- fair and open process and produced a clean report despite the fact that four (4) women confirmed getting screamed at and being otherwise mistreated by Stafford. Contracting of clean reports is done routinely by unethical employers who are trying to discredit employees’ claims. In hands of a skilled plaintiffs’ LAD attorney, such clean report becomes a liability for defense because it shows dishonesty and bad will. Connelly will have to answer under oath how many of the workplace investigations she has conducted over decades of her practice have found in favor of employee. I will wager the answer is “zero”.

    Could the women win? You mean at trial? I think so, but it’s hard to tell with absolute certitude before the exchange of discovery. One, you have to remember that CFO’s and Deputy Clerk’s cases are quite different. The former relies on CEPA and LAD statutes, the latter just on LAD. Further, a lot depends on the Township’s policies during the time alleged actions took place. What were the formal and informal complaint procedures? Were there anti-harassment/anti-discrimination trainings? Was the employee handbook up to date? These and many questions remain unanswered at this stage.

    From what I understand, after previous HR Director left about 2 years ago, Stafford refused to hire replacement, becoming a de facto HR Director himself. Now, that does not look good, does it? Lastly, I will reiterate, Nancy Erika Smith would not take a case that she thought had no merit. She obviously knows more details about the case than I do. Perhaps one day she will decide to weigh in on this platform. I would be honored to get educated by someone of her caliber.

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