Surprised, saddened by Stafford lawsuit (Letter to the Editor)
I sat on the Township Council from 2012 to 2020. In about 2014, we were looking for a new township manager and Joe Martin, then Verona manager, strongly recommended to me Tim Stafford.
I met with and vetted Tim before introducing him to the council. During the vetting, he universally received nothing but the highest accolades. Ultimately I introduced Tim to my colleagues and, after further vetting, we made him township manager.
Working with Tim, I found him to be completely professional, straightforward, well prepared, knowledgeable, kind and honest in all his dealings. He was a great union negotiator, among other things.
Tim clearly had two mandates. One was to do what was best for Montclair, the other was to respect the will of the council. He dedicated his life, quite literally, to our town. For Tim, nothing came before Montclair.
Sometime later we had to replace our chief financial officer. Tim embarked on that search. He came upon Padmaja (Maja) Rao. Maja was relatively young and inexperienced as CFO but had been a municipal auditor throughout the state and knew the system backwards and forwards and everybody in it.
We considered Maja to be a "find." Like with Tim, I found my dealings with her to be completely professional. We sat together at many meetings and collegially worked hard with others to do what was best for Montclair.
I have been surprised and saddened by the ongoing lawsuit and stories and opinions it has generated. It does not represent either individual I know.
I am further saddened by the race to judgment against Tim. He has been regularly vilified by people who weren't present for his alleged transgressions and may well have a separate agenda. I was not present either; however, when my term ended in 2020, the town wasn't perfect, but it was kinda running like clockwork, including Tim and Maja. Now it seems to be more of a ticking time bomb.
Either way this lawsuit falls it's going to take a lot of time and going to cost the town a lot of money. The result may well surprise many. That's not to mention the loss of prestige and the distractions it has caused.
It seems whereas a short time ago we had responsible leadership we now seem to have a dearth of same but a surfeit of bickering. And here we are. Sad!