Push comes to shove in executive session

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    WEST MILFORD-Politics in West Milford have been fairly contentious as of late, but the level of controversy stepped up a notch last week when Township Attorney William DeMarco was charged with assault and subsequently resigned his position after an allegedly physical confrontation with councilman Robert Nolan. The altercation took place seconds after the council entered the executive session portion of their May 4 regular meeting. In recounting the events, Nolan said the next day, "It happened so quickly, everyone was stunned. DeMarco charged across the room and pushed me with both hands." The following day Nolan went to the West Milford Police Department and filed a complaint of assault against DeMarco, who is now scheduled to appear in Municipal Court on May 12 on a disorderly person's offense. Nolan said he believes the appearance will most likely be rescheduled. According to New Jersey law this offense, if convicted, carries with it a sentence of up to a maximum of six months imprisonment or a possible $1000 fine. Nolan said that since the incident he had developed a sore back and would seek medical advice, although he believed any injuries sustained to be minor. The push and subsequent fallout came after a heated meeting which saw Mayor Joseph DiDonato struggle to control the tempers of DeMarco and Nolan while they argued back and forth with each other. DeMarco also got himself involved in a verbal tête-à-tête with Martin O'Shea who was sitting in the back row of the public seating area. DeMarco and O'Shea have fought numerous legal battles in the past year during the latter's law suits against council bodies with regard to the release of public information. DeMarco made it clear at the end of 2004 he intended to step down from the attorney position as soon as his replacement was found. The mayor released a statement on Friday May 6 announcing DeMarco's resignation and placed blame evenly on the shoulders of both men. DiDonato said, "On the eve of selection of the new township attorney, there was no public good served by the confrontation between Councilman Nolan and Mr. DeMarco. Displays of personal animosity are destructive to the process of conducting public business." A flurry of press releases and comments followed DeMarco's resignation producing both Republican and Democratic versions of events showing markedly different interpretations. GOP council member Joseph Elcavage had little sympathy for Nolan and released an uncompromising statement on May 6. "I am extremely disappointed by Councilman Nolan's lack of professionalism in dealing with Mr. DeMarco. A person with an anger problem or one who is ethically challenged should not be a council person." Neither Nolan nor his Democratic colleague on the council James Warden was prepared to idly stand by while Nolan's part in DeMarco's resignation was questioned. Both men issued a joint statement condemning the roles played by the attorney and more so by the mayor and the four Republican councilmen for what they describe as "a big mistake" in hiring DeMarco. In their press release, there is also an appeal for unity from their political opponents on the council. "Must everything be a partisan issue? There is never an acceptable excuse for physically assaulting someone. Is that not something that the West Milford Republican Councilmen can be on common ground with their Democratic colleagues?" Township Administrator Richard Kunze said he hoped a permanent replacement for DeMarco would be selected by the end of