West Milford politics fueled by anger

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:57

    WEST MILFORD—With elections less than a month away, West Milford politics are even more contentious than usual. On Wednesday night, prior to the beginning of the township council workshop, Democratic candidate Andy Gargano and incumbent Republican Councilman Carmine Scagarello got into an argument when Scagarello overheard Gargano calling him names. Shortly thereafter, a nose to nose confrontation involving Council President Bill Gervens and local resident and open government watchdog Martin O’Shea turned into a shouting match. By the end of the meeting, a proposal to allow members of the public to speak at the end of council meetings was rejected. The idea, introduced by Democrat Councilmen Bob Nolan and James Warden, was to allow the public a two or three minute opportunity to address the council at the end of each meeting. The content of these public comments would be restricted to the action taken by the council at that particular meeting. The public can speak for up to five minutes during the meeting usually before any action is taken or items discussed by the council. As an apparent test of the council’s willingness to allow public comments O’Shea requested the council vote to allow him to speak (as, according to O’Shea municipal law allows) on the issue of pay to play. Candid and heated views from both Gervens and O’Shea were exchanged and more public comment was occurring, just not as the projected ordinance had planned. Once the row had dissipated, a vote was taken and by a 3-2 majority O’Shea was denied the chance to speak. Back on the issue at hand, Warden said “We take a lot of action up here that affects a lot of people. We have a public portion of the meeting that usually happens at the beginning before we take action. What I’d like the council to consider…is a second public portion at the end of the meeting…so we allow residents to address the council again on the action which we have taken.” Council member Carmelo Scangarello disagreed with Warden saying “We’re already at ten after ten. Temperaments are getting hot and words are being said. To have another open discussion I think we are looking for trouble. I think it would be detrimental if we went ahead and did something like that.” In support of Warden Nolan said “I don’t think it’s detrimental for the council to hear from their constituents. I’d like to see the public be able to comment again at the end of the meeting.” Republican Council member Joseph Elcavage said “I don’t see any reason why we should change things once every six months or so just because we have one or two new council people elected. You know what, if you want to change things come January first, we can try it then. Let’s see what happens in the election.” Elcavage’s comments were met with laughter from Nolan and Warden however their smiles were short lived once the consensus was taken and shown that a majority of the council, again by 3-2, did not want to consider a second public portion. It proved to be a mixed night for Nolan and Warden. Although having had their proposal for a second public portion nixed they did succeed somewhat on their revised ‘Pay to Play’ ordinance. The council agreed to continue discussing a draft ordinance which would seek to prevent financial contributors to council political candidates leading to the award of township service contracts to those same donors. The matter is set to be revisited at the next council workshop meeting on Oct. 19.