How does the start of the school year in Montclair relate to the job performance of the township clerk?


September 6 in the Mix

If I wanted riddles, I’d reread “The Hobbit” meet-up scene of Gollum and Bilbo Baggins — who were both faster than Montclair’s clerk at posting meeting minutes and responding to Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests.


You solved the riddle! The start of school relates to the clerk because if students did their work as slowly as she does they’d fail their classes, yet the clerk has lasted long enough to be up for tenure!


Comparison Garrison

That explains why, as I played “Mad Libs,” the Montclair edition of that word game squirted me with whipped cream when I penciled in “merit system.”


There are worse fates. Will there be a vote on the clerk’s tenure at the Township Council’s next meeting — scheduled for September 12?


Tuesday Might Be News Day

Guess we’ll have to wait to find out. I’ll be counting the minutes, but not posting them. Tee-hee.


Scheduled for three days earlier — Saturday, September 9 — is the Montclair Jazz Festival Downtown Jamboree. Details about that huge, exciting event?


All That Jazz

On a half-mile stretch of Bloomfield Avenue. Lasts eight hours. About 250 musicians. About 200 food and “artisan” vendors. Has nothing to do with the Utah Jazz basketball team.


That’s one detail too many. Then — on Wednesday, September 13 — there’s Back to School Night at Montclair High. Will you be among the parents roaming the halls in a frenzy, trying to get from classroom to classroom on time?


Front to School Night, Too

Inspired by the township clerk, I’ll respond to your question on September 7. Today? Nope, September 7, 2024.


If it’s going to take a year, can I sit in one of The Clairidge theater’s comfy new seats while waiting?


Film Fan Fran

Only if you pay admission to see a movie. Perhaps “Oldboy,” who was “Youngboy” when first submitting a still-unfilled OPRA request to Montclair’s clerk.


Two days before the school year started with abbreviated days due to the heat, the pool season ended on Labor Day. How many pools are in our town?


A Deep Statistical Dive

There are three municipal pools, plus many carpools that take members of Montclair High’s crew team to Rutherford (and back) for practices on the Passaic River. I’m hoping to earn enough Frequent Driver Miles for a free trip to…East Rutherford.


Oh, your 11th-grade daughter does crew?


Edgar Allan Row

Yes. It’s a club sport in the fall and a regular Montclair High sport in the spring, with winter training in between. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into…another crew season.”


What’s that have to do with the township clerk’s performance?


Courteney Coxswain

Tenure is an either/oar…um…either/or decision.

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Montclair Local.

Join the Conversation


  1. My suggestion to Peter Yacobellis would be to recuse himself from voting on Clerk’s reappointment. It would be a thoughtful thing to do. He is not running in 2024. Why should be saddling new crew (and residents) with this awful Clerk? This is serious business as it is extremely difficult to get rid of a tenured employee. Mr. Yacobellis: residents of this town do not want to fund 30 years of salary of a non-performing employee who seems to view taxpayers as a nuisance. Is this the legacy you want to leave?

  2. Thank you for the comment, e. dellisanti! Well said! My thought is I’d like to see all seven Township Council members vote to remove the clerk because of problematic job performance — with none of them recusing themselves. (And, for all we know, Peter Yacobellis might not be the only Council member not running for reelection next year.)

  3. Dave, you are being a Pollyanna. Seven votes to remove clerk? Never gonna happen. It will likely be 4:3, unless Yacobellis finds decency to recuse himself, like e. dell above suggested.

    This Clerk failing on OPRAs and minutes is a boon to the Sean+Peter. They do NOT want OPRAs fulfilled and they do NOT want residents to have prompt access to minutes. Clerk plays ball hence she is protected. Yuck.

    Meanwhile, I hear some residents reached out to DCA to get more info about muni-clerk tenure rules. I’m curious what info it will yield. My take is, let go of Nieves and go for shared services agreement with one of neighboring municipalities. I’m cool with any one of them (other than Glen Ridge perhaps). Clifton? Bloomfield? Verona? Livingston? Come on, Council: do something good for residents for once! This Clerk is no good and we need a solution.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Geronimo! I mentioned that I’d like to see all seven Township Council members vote to remove the clerk. Do I believe that will happen? Not a chance! It was just a wish. As you note, it is indeed quite possible that the clerk is acceding to the wishes of some of the seven TCers in slow-walking minutes posting and OPRA responses. For those TCers, the less transparency the better as they hope the problematic things they’ve done (or not done) don’t see the light of day for as long as possible.

  5. I used to be Peter’s supporter. He seemed different from Sean Spiller and I admired that he had the courage to stand up to the Mayor and challenge some of his questionable practices. I don’t know what happened, but at some point he… aligned himself with Sean thereby contributing to the unfortunate creation of the Foul Four.

    This is concerning, given continued proliferation of scandals. It appears that many employees at 205 are miserable. I’m told that Deputy Clerk left in tears because “she couldn’t take it anymore”. We all know the long-standing issues with OPRAs and minutes. I heard that a number of residents have been waiting for months to have their OPRAs fulfilled. The statute says 7 days. Sigh.

    If I were you, Peter, I’d focus on employee welfare and on transparency during your lame duck stretch. What’s going on at the Clerk’s Office is VERY concerning.

    You should also look into the issue of hiring a new Township Attorney. The current Interim one is an awful mistake and he is appointed through December 31st. Is the Council interviewing QUALIFIED candidates? Or are they as usual oblivious to their duties, only to wake up mid-November and say: “Um, I guess we gonna reappoint Mr. Burr because we don’t have anyone else lined up.” Foul Four notwithstanding, the remaining Three should at least try! Mr. Russo, Mr. Cummings, and Mr. Hurlock: Please, get off your rear ends and start working towards securing competent and experienced legal counsel for the township!

    As Geronimo mentioned above, Shared Services Agreement is an excellent option as a transition to hiring a new clerk. Same is true about SSA for Township Attorney. I hear Bloomfield has an excellent Attorney AND an excellent Clerk.

    I know we got screwed on the botched Glen Ridge fire deal. But let’s not throw the baby with the bath water. Shared Services Agreements CAN be done right. It’s a viable form of interlocal help, it saves money, and it helps in times of transition.

  6. Thank you, Meredith! Great comment! I agree that Montclair could use a new township attorney as well as a new municipal clerk. I realize Shared Services Agreements can save money and that some nearby towns have very good people in the clerk and attorney posts and that you’re talking about SSAs as temporary transition moves, but Montclair is big enough and complicated enough that’s it preferable to have a clerk and attorney devoting all their efforts to one town. The right clerk and the right attorney, of course — competent, gives unbiased advice, doesn’t play politics, not involved in helping officials they’re seemingly aligned with, etc.

  7. Agree with Dave Astor 100%. That said, extreme situations call for extreme measures. In this situation, I’d settle for SSA for one or both positions if it meant bad actors are removed.

    In fact, I’d go for SSA with just about any local municipality for IT services. It is a disgrace what we have right now. We paid half-a-million in ransom and departments say they still have no access to files! I happen to be familiar with the field. This is outrageous.

    Director of IT should go. I don’t know the person but, based on what I see, this guy would NEVER survive in private sector. He didn’t put 2-factor authentication until June of this year. Whisky Tango Foxtrot! This has been industry standard FOR YEARS! How did the Township’s insurance company put up with this? I’m serious, I would like to know. And I’m going to ask. I’m not going to pay taxes in this town to pay salaries for sorely unqualified people.

  8. Thank you for the comment, McAlistair! I agree that Shared Services Agreements for Montclair’s clerk and attorney posts (with a town or towns that have very competent people in those posts) would be better than what Montclair currently has — even as a very competent, independent clerk and attorney just for Montclair would be ideal. And, yes, the IT situation in Montclair also seems very problematic, as you described so well.

  9. What we witnessed yesterday is surreal

    Did they amend the introduction of the gas leaf blower ordinance? It is just unbelievable how Township Attorney cannot string two sentences together into a coherent whole. Lori Price Abrams has to jump in and translate his gobbledygook to the public! I still don’t understand what changes were made and why did Burr say they made the changes to comply with law? I am lost here. Does it mean he previously recommended to the council to adopt an ordinance that does not comply with the law??

    Between all these last minute changes, last minute insertions of resolutions and ordinances without public notice, residents’ heads are spinning.

  10. This unfolding drama is worthy of Hollywood!

    For 3 YEARS now public has had issues with the Clerk. No minutes, no timely response to OPRAs and lack of professional public service.

    Now when she is up for getting tenure, surprisingly, all the minutes are caught up. Remember how she braznely opted out of doing minutes for over a year thus defying the law?

    Also interesting that Lori Price Abrams has to come out and say that only now council looked into what is causing the delays in OPRAs and realized that it is not Clerk’s doing. What was Abrams doing last few years? Sleeping? Shifting blame on departments is easy but it’s not right. It is Clerk’s responsibility to oversee OPRA fulfillment. If she doesn’t want to do that, why do we need Clerk?

    Further, what is this new fancy software application that is going to solve all OPRA issues? And how much are we the taxpayers going to be hit with for this magical instrument? Did Linda Wanat need special software? Did Juliet Lee? The answer is no because they were real, qualified municipal clerks who knew how to handle their statutory duties.

    To add insult to injury, I remember about a year ago Mayor singlehandedly pushed for an additional employee for the clerk’s office specifically to take care of OPRA. He bullied Russo when Russo and Cummings tried to object to hiring second admin to that department. I remember Russo saying something like: “Why are we rewarding the Clerk by giving her additional personnel for not doing her job?” True to form, Spiller shut him down and rammed the hiring through.

    This is outrageous. This public employee doesn’t do the work that she is handsomely paid for. The taxpayers are forced to foot the the bill to get an additional employee to the job of the one that is sorely failing. When the additional hiring doesn’t solve the problem of incompetence and non-compliance with OPMA and OPRA, taxpayers are not only asked to continue paying for the extra employee but now for additional technology? Just how disrespectful and wasteful is that? Just hire a competent, experienced person for this critical position instead of using residents as your piggy bank to prop up someone who has been continuously and shamelessly failing us residents.

    Since the council are seriously failing in their jobs and are unable/unwilling to find competent professionals for their 3 direct hires, perhaps they should be asked to pay back their stipend. They don’t deserve it. What about the illegal health benefits they took? That has to be hundreds of thousands of dollars! When are they paying that back? Enough of the freeloading already.

  11. Thank you for the comment, Jonathan! I hear you — I also found confusing the Council’s Tuesday discussion/vote on amending the measure banning gas-powered leaf blowers. I might have to watch that portion of the meeting again as a “summer rerun.” 🙂

  12. Thank you for the comment, Elke! You made a number of excellent points. The coming automated system for OPRA requests might help a little, but it is no magic potion for preventing those requests from being fulfilled slowly or not at all. I think the clerk and some department heads share the blame, along with some elected officials who are probably happy about the OPRA requests being fulfilled slowly or not at all. Or even encouraging of that. To them, lack of transparency is not a bad thing.

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