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.

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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