Metzler In, Stafford Out as Borough Manager

Ron Mondello to take over as borough attorney

Of the many borough personnel changes Fair Lawn's Republican-controlled council will make at , none is more significant -- both operationally and symbolically -- than the appointment of Tom Metzler as , who replaces Timothy Stafford.

Under Fair Lawn's Council-Manager form of government, the borough manager serves as Fair Lawn's chief executive and administrative officer. The manager is appointed by council and administers its directives, executes laws, presents the annual budget, and appoints and supervises most department heads and employees.

Metzler was originally appointed borough manager in 2006 after a long stint as the borough's emergency management coordinator, but the Democrat-controlled council voted 3-to-2 to fire him in October 2008, after he used taxpayer funds to replace his own borough vehicle without first consulting council. After a series of public hearings, where numerous residents showed up to support Metzler, he was allowed to resign in December 2008.

Joanne Kwasineswki, the current , served as acting borough manager in Metzler's absence until July 2010 when Stafford was hired.

Metzler and his supporters -- who included soon-to-be Mayor Jeanne Baratta and soon-to-be Deputy Mayor of Community Affairs Ed Trawinski -- have long maintained that his dismissal by council was politically motivated.

"That was their way of getting rid of him," Baratta said Monday. "His political affiliation was no secret. He was a Republican."

Baratta acknowledged that Metzler had exercised poor judgment by not running his car purchase past council, but said that nothing he did was against the law.

"Should Tom Metzler have come to us? Yes," she said. "Was what he did illegal? No. Absolutely not."

Baratta said she was thrilled to be able to bring Metzler back to his old position, righting a wrong that she felt had been committed by the past council.

"We saw very nominal tax increases when [Metzler] was here, morale in borough hall was much better than it is now and we would like to right the wrong that happened to Tom Metzler a number of years ago and bring him back to Fair Lawn," Baratta said.

She said the replacement of Stafford was nothing personal.

"It’s no secret that he wasn’t my choice," Baratta said. "I didn’t vote for his appointment, but I worked with him. I thought he was very professional. I think he’s a very nice person. We wish him the best of luck, but I think it’s time for a change now."

said the replacement of Stafford was not out of disatisfaction with the job he had done, but rather out of the need to change course. 

"We have a lot of problems here in Fair Lawn that we have to correct and I think that Tom Metzler is the person that can best do that for us," Cosgrove said.

"I've worked with every manager over the last 35 years and had the pleasure of working with Tom Metzler, and I agree with Sen. [Bob] Gordon who called him 'one of the best borough managers in the state of New Jersey.'"

At the Fair Lawn Old Timers Dinner in 2009, where Metzler received the "Distinguished Citizen Award," Gordon spoke glowingly of Metzler's service to Fair Lawn.

"I found him to be a person of just unquestionable integrity, a highly skilled person who was totally dedicated to the people of Fair Lawn," Gordon said at the banquet dinner (video of speech is attached).

In addition to the borough manager switch, Cosgrove and Baratta both confirmed that Ron Mondello would replace Bruce Rosenberg as the borough's attorney.

Baratta called Rosenberg a "terrific attorney" and a "terrific person," but said the borough needed to make some personnel changes and infuse fresh ideas.

"I think part of what this campaign showed is that people in Fair Lawn are looking for some changes," Baratta said. "We’ve got some problems and if we kept everything status quo, we’d have the same situation that we’re in now. So we think in order to fix some of the problems we have we need to make some changes, and we are going to make some changes."

Unlike Metzler, Mondello's appointment appears on Tuesday's consent agenda, which means it was consented to by the Democrats on council.

Baratta said that Metzler is expected to begin his duties as manager later this week.

ORION January 04, 2012 at 02:36 AM
FL1985 January 04, 2012 at 02:45 AM
"YOU ALL SO AFRAID OF YOUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH " I don't even know what that means?!
Zak Koeske January 04, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Like I said, Sally, the Republicans would "like" Rosenberg to become the Zoning Board attorney. I did not say that they had appointed him to be the Zoning Board attorney, because as you point out, they don't get to decide. To your second point, I only quoted Republicans in the last few articles about Republican appointments because they are the ones making the appointments. The Democrats are not involved. There will be plenty of time for commentary and questioning the appointments in the future, and I'm certain to write articles doing just that, but these were straight breaking news stories that in my estimation did not require it. You are welcome to disagree, and I completely respect that.
Donvito January 04, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I need a new car...guess I should run for office too??
Sally J January 04, 2012 at 04:26 AM
No, Zak you are misinformed. Just because the Republicans have the majority does not mean that the Democrats "are not involved" in the appointments. If they were "not involved" in the appointments it would be a violation of the Sunshine Act. Stick to reporting news or stick to commenting on it, but don't try to do both.
ORION January 04, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Obviously I was typing quickly and didn't proof read before I posted. So that gives you the right to make a snide remark and belittle me. Is that the best response you can give? Instead of getting the point and making an intelligent response.
ORION January 04, 2012 at 04:39 AM
FL1985 Ahhhhh this must be Peluso.....1985 must be your birth year.....It would be understandable and the sarcasm would go with the remarks you mad tonight.
ORION January 04, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Obviously not your real name ... just an obsession with the Godfather. lol Can you explain to me what happened at the meetings that lead to the democratic councils decision on this matter? Where you at any of the meetings?
Zak Koeske January 04, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Maybe "not involved" wasn't the right choice of words, but what I meant was that the Democrats don't decide the appointments. The majority on council -- in this case the Republicans -- ultimately selects the appointed individuals. So, when I wanted to find out whom they chose to appoint and why, I spoke with them. Like I said, you are free to disagree with that approach. As for me "commenting on the news," a reader had questioned the replacement of the borough attorney (and I believe for good reason, because I asked the Republicans the same thing). The answer I received was that they wanted Rosenberg to stay on as the Zoning Board attorney, so that's what I told the other reader. If I can provide additional information to a reader -- beyond what is included in an article -- I will try to do it. I consider it part of my role as editor of the site to actively answer questions or clear up confusion that exists among readers. That's why I'm responding to you -- because you asked.
RadburnBpark January 04, 2012 at 04:55 AM
William you would be wrong as mr peluso would be born in 82 or 83
RadburnBpark January 04, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Not Ebonics its called a meme. Google image search u mad and you can find any number of variations of the meme. I would think the first lady was chosen since this discussion was about politics, clearly this went over your head.
Bruce Knuckle January 04, 2012 at 12:36 PM
William, another champion for anonymous bloggers I see. Read the history behind Poor Richards Almanac to learn a bit about anonymity. Your attempts at guessing his name shows how much you want to out him and cause him personal grief. Using your real name will come to haunt you one day, you'll see, then you can use your free speech to get a restraining order
ORION January 04, 2012 at 04:24 PM
LENNY January 04, 2012 at 07:28 PM
THE PLAYERS CHANGE BUT THE GAME IS THE SAME PARTY LINES and we the tax payers do not win. when someone who is not with party lines can vote on issues will things start to change. I HOPE BOTH SIDES SEE THE PEOPLE WANT A GOVERMENT THAT DOES FAIR LAWN RIGHT.
RadburnBpark January 04, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Lenny could not agree more and this is a great case of the taxpayers getting screwed because of friendships and promises made. Now that they have hired Metzler back they are going to be paying both Metzler and Stafford for the next 3 months. Instead of waiting out Staffords term of 3 months. So now the tax payers get to pay double. Great first step by the new leadership in saving the town money.
ORION January 04, 2012 at 08:07 PM
2WrongsDont=Right January 04, 2012 at 08:34 PM
will be: i was against dual posititions when the dems did, and i was opposed to giving "friends" positions and jobs when the dems did it. when i voted cosgrove i voted for fair lawn first. not republicans first. the second the republicans got the majority they appointed there 'friends' to posistions- and they are repeating the same stupid cycle the previous dem majority did. so if you have a problem with what the last council did it is hypocritical to think what the current council is doing is ok.
BellairBerdan January 04, 2012 at 09:46 PM
The Republicans take care of their own. The Democrats take care of the rest. How many bets are there that in this time of austerity they will be giving themselves raises because they 'saved money'? It's been said the new Borough Attorney makes $25 more an hour than the previous one, which by the way, just that increase is more than the hourly wages of THREE minimum wage workers.
CutterPride January 04, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I will save the Republicans the trouble of having to pile on this one. At last night's meeting, it was Mr. Mondello, who "put Fair Lawn first", and declared that he would work for a rate equal to that of the previous Attorney. Albeit, this was after discussion points were brought up by the minority. But all in all, a stand up and classy move, but one made by Mr. Mondello alone. All it took was some discussing of the issue though! Dare I suggest that this savings (however big or small) was done with some semblance of the two parties discussing an issue and finding a resolution that benefited Fair Lawn! And kudois to Mr. Mondello!
Daniel Dunay January 04, 2012 at 10:46 PM
To all of those who have decried the appointment of new professionals, I say the following: The biggest overarching issue in all of this is that, under Manager Stafford's leadership, the borough has found itself ensnared in a series of costly lawsuits, costly both in the legal fees upfront and the potential liability on the back-end. These lawsuits are a testament not only to a troubled work environment in the borough but also to poor legal advice and execution under the prior administration. Only capable, qualified professionals will cleanse this mess, and any strong administration would pay a modest premium to obtain suitable and proper management rather than risk letting the status quo moneypit continue to deepen. There is not a single credible argument in all of the above that the outgoing team is better equipped to deal with all of the borough's challenges.
FrankinFairLawn January 04, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Former Mayor Lisa Swain Voted Yes for Mr Metzler's pay package when they fired him. With a man of Borough Manager Metzler's experience and knowledge of this town and how it operates, I'm sure it will pay off for the residents and Borough employees who gave him a huge warm welcome.
morlot46 January 05, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Will B-Wow this is a whole new level of lying. In a post above you said "RIGHT JUST LIKE THE WAY LISA SWAINS BROTHER IN LAW GOT THE SOLAR PANEL JOB AT THE COMPLEX TO BE BUILT ON THE OLD KODAK SITE." I happen to know former Mayor Lisa Swain and her family well and I know that she doesn't even have a brother-in-law and before you say it was her brother I can tell you that her brother is not in the solar panel business. So check your facts before you speak.
BellairBerdan January 05, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I find it ironic there are those those that think a raise equivalent to the pay of more than 3 minimum wage workers is "modest" and that these same people will also usually feel just as strongly that someone whose entire salary is less than HALF of the others raise is being paid too much. I am glad that Mondello agreed, all on his own (after being brought up by the Democrats), to take the same amount as the last attorney.
Deleted because of harassment January 05, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Many of the former appointments were connected and decided by faxes sent to their partisans, according to information that came out in the indictments of Ferriero and Oury. Does that somehow make them better people? As one of the people that supported Tom Metlzer based upon personal interactions, and who attended every one of the meetings that led up to his resignation, including the work sessions, I am glad to see the wrong righted, and also made note of the childish behavior of the former Mayor and her new protege', one for not having a clue as to how meetings are run, and the other for knowing the terms of the former agreement but needing to attempt to vent her excuses anyway. I've known John for 41 years, and I dare anyone who knows him and his character to launch themselves on a vendetta against him for agreeing that the various appointments needed change. Where were you all when veteran volunteers were dumped wholesale without even a thank you by the previous council? When appointments were made of a bogus company, fronted by two people who were CONVICTED of their scam to defraud?
Gimley Farb January 05, 2012 at 09:26 PM
WILL BE, it is always wonderful to see self-appointed sanctimonious individuals get outraged when Democrats start to show a backbone in standing up to Republican bully boys. You guys can certainly dish it out but you can't take it.
Gimley Farb January 05, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Mr. Dunay, they say that a "little knowledge is a dangerous thing," and I have to complement you on just demonstrating that fact. The facts that you are apparently unfamiliar with concerning the lawsuits, and which facts are available to anyone who can read either The Record or The Community News," are that the responsibility and accountability for them lie directly at the feet of the Fair Lawn Police Department and the Chief of Police. And while the borough manager has some control over the Police Dept., it is not absolute. The lawsuits have been primarily targeted at the Chief of Police, whose tenure makes the kinds of changes needed extremely difficult. If the incoming borough manager, whom I have the utmost respect and regard for, can effect the kind of changes required, then he really will have made a major contribution to the ongoing health of the borough. As for the legal advice that will be brought to bear under the new administration, that remains to be seen.
Go Figure January 05, 2012 at 09:58 PM
When Mr. Metzler was here before he and his office personally helped me with a few problems I encountered. He was always a gentleman, never too busy, the consummate professional, and a great problem solver. My family and I could never thank him enough. I believe Fair Lawn is in very capable and caring hands! Hats off to Mr. Metzler. Welcome back to the great borough in New Jersey. Make us proud.
Gimley Farb January 05, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Deleted, from occasionally observing your harrangues against the previous majority together with all Democrats, I know that you like to treat Republicans in this town with kid gloves, but could you be more specific as to which "veteran volunteers" were the ones who were "dumped wholesale without even a thank you by the previous council?" And as for know how meetings are run, I can't wait to see how Deputy Mayor Cosgrove runs meetings when he is forced to take over because pressing engagements require his boss, the Mayor and her brain, Mr. Ed to be present at meetings down in Hackensack.
Daniel Dunay January 06, 2012 at 02:24 PM
In response to Mr. Gimley Farb, I can only say the following. I agree that the borough manager's control over the police department is not absolute, but he or she is the ONLY official who is both directly responsible to the council and who has any authority over the department AT ALL. Since the council can't directly replace the police chief, the ONLY thing they CAN do is to appoint a new manager. Which is exactly what they did. However, if you'll still claim that argument is weak, I'm perfectly happy to join hands with you and together point the finger at those responsible for contracting with the police chief in the first place--the prior administration. I do agree with everything you said about Mr. Metzler, including that he has a difficult road ahead. It is very reassuring to see that there are individuals who may disagree on some points but still have a positive outlook for the new management.
Ron Mondello January 29, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Mr. CutterPride, I just read your post. I have been involved with land use law and municipal law for twenty years. If I did not, I certainly would feel that same way as you do...after all, I pay the same Fair Lawn taxes that you do. I can also appreciate your feelings on not wanting to fight a speeding ticket. However, many of my clients can not afford to pay the huge increases to their NJ automobile insurance rates for exceeding the speed limit by even 5 MPH. Please call me when convenient. 201-703-9400. Thank you. Ron Mondello


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