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Westfield Republicans, Democrats End Stalemate

Marion Mogielnicki Named Municipal Judge, Replacing Judge Edward Hobbie

Assistant Attorney Named; Expected to take Charles Brandt Position Next Year


Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times

The stalemate between the Republican majority and their Democratic counterparts on the Town Council over proposed appointments by new Democratic Mayor Thomas C. Jardim ended late Monday night following almost three hours of closed door negotiations intended to "clear the air." Negotiations had been held throughout the week including a two-hour session Sunday night to no resolve.

Both sides of the aisle continued to pass a list of appointments back and forth, according to Third Ward Councilman John J. Walsh who represented the Democrats along with Mayor Jardim during the process. Councilman Walsh called Tuesday night’s marathon private session just the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of all the previous meetings which began December 15.

Mayor Jardim admitted at one point in the evening he did not think an agreement would be worked out. He said he was close to moving ahead with the appointments and let the Republicans voting against them if he chose. He credited Republican Second Ward Councilman James J. Gruba, he referred as a "class act," with refusing to give up on the negotiations despite the pressure he was getting from both Democrats as well as his own party.

"We stuck with it in a very difficult time," the Mayor said. "It was a good win for everyone."

The stalemate caused the Board of Health and the Westfield Recreation Commission to cancel their monthly meetings. The Recreation Commission did not have a Chairman since that position is appointed annually by the Mayor, while the Board of Health did not meet since four seats on the nine-member had yet to be filled.

Mayor Jardim and his running mates Mr. Walsh and Fourth Ward Lawrence A. Goldman swept Republicans Norman N. Greco, the Mayoral contender, and his running mates Anthony N. Palumbo and Janis Fried Weinstein. Mayor Jardim is the first Democrat in 85 years to serve in the role. The four seats in the town government are the most the Democratic party has held at any one time.

Among the changes agreed to were the appointment of Marion Mogielnicki as Westfield Municipal Court Judge over current Judge Edward J. Hobbie who has held the post for the past 12 years. The appointment is for three years. She was described by Mayor Jardim as "a real good lawyer" who knows the Prosecutor and the new Public Defender who will serve under her.

"It is good to have a female face" on the court, the Mayor explained. He said she comes "highly recommended" by members of both political parties.

Councilman Walsh said Mrs. Mogielnicki "will make an excellent judge." He said now that an agreement has been struck, the council can get on with "running the government."

Councilman Gruba said the new judge's experience as an attorney in the community make her satisfactory to fill the post. "She will be judged on how she conducts herself as a jurist," he explained.

Town Attorney Charles H. Brandt was re-appointed in what is expected to be his last year serving in that role. This is his 20th year as Town Attorney.

An Assistant Town Attorney position was approved with the intention of allowing this person to be an apprentice before taking over for Mr. Brandt next year. Also re-appointed was Rick Danzer as Labor Attorney. That post was also rumored to have been sticking point.

A practicing attorney with an office in Westfield, Mrs. Mogielnicki has filled in as Public Defender. The new Judge, who will be sworn later this week or early next week by a Superior Court judge, ran an unsuccessful bid against former Mayor Garland C. "Bud" Boothe, Jr. for the Second Ward council seat in 1989.

Mrs. Mogielnicki, a 13-year resident, said she was "very excited" to have the opportunity to serve the town as judge. She called Judge Hobbie "very well respected" by his peers. She will sit in on this week’s court sessions before taking over on Tuesday, January 21.

First Ward Councilwoman Gail S. Vernick, who represented the Republicans along with Mr. Gruba, said she was "very happy" both sides were able to come away with an agreement where both parties on the council are "somewhat happy." "We came to a meeting of the minds. We both came away with something we can live with," she added. She credited Fourth Ward Councilman James Hely for helping to end the impasse.

Although saying she wished Judge Hobbie could have been re-appointed, Councilwoman Vernick said the Republicans decided they had to move off their stand in order for Westfield’s government to become functioning again. She referred to the effort made by the Democrats during the negotiations as "taking two steps forward and 10 steps backward". She said it was a shame that he was being removed by the Democrats for "partisan" reasons. She called him "apolitical," adding that has done a "admirable" job for the town.

Mayor Jardim, during his brief comments during the meeting, credited Councilman Gruba and Council woman Vernick for their efforts in reaching the accord.

After the long session, council members of both parties could be seen walking the hallways together in an attempt to reach an accord. Finally, at about 11:15 p.m. the council poured into the dais to take their seats.

Another change was the appointment of Pam McClure to the Planning Board over former Councilman and Mayoral contender Anthony M. La Porta who had been proposed by Mayor Jardim.

Councilman Walsh said the Republicans made it clear they would reject any list of Mayoral appointments that included Mr. La Porta’s name for a seat on the Planning Board. Mr. La Porta captured 48 percent of the total vote in losing to Mr. Boothe in the 1994 Mayoral race. He served as First Ward Councilman in 1993 and 1994.

Ms. McClure previously served on the Board of Adjustment as an alternate in 1990, 1991, and 1993, and ran unsuccessfully in the 1991 Republican Primary against former Councilman Kenneth L. MacRitchie in the Third Ward.

Town Engineer Kenneth B. Marsh was re-appointed for one year. In Westfield, the Town Engineer is a voting member of the board.

Ms. McClure’s term will expire at the end of the year 2000 as will that of William Brennan who was also named to the board. Martin Robbins was appointed to the First Alternate spot. The two-year term expires at the end of 1998.

In terms of the Town Attorney post, Republicans agreed with the Democratic proposal to create the position of Assistant Town Attorney for this year. Mr. Hely, the senior Democrat on the council, said the intention is to provide a transition before Paul Strauchler assumes the post next year.

Mr. Strauchler, a member of the law firm of Post & Pollak of Roseland, "was immediately acceptable to the Republicans", said Councilman Walsh. Post & Pollak represents the Borough of Mountainside. John N. Post, a partner in the firm, has held the Borough Attorney position for years.

Also, Robert Goodsell, another member of the firm, is General Counsel for the Warren Township Sewer Authority, according to Mayor Jardim. The Mayor said he is happy with the appointment of Mr. Strauchler, adding the firm itself has additional resources which could aid the town in the future.

The Mayor said he did not to deprive Mr. Brandt of his full 20-year pension and also wanted Mr. Strauchler to learn from his experience.

In viewing the Town Attorney as the "personal attorney" for the Mayor, Councilman Walsh said Mayor Jardim put forward Mr. Strauchler’s name. A Westfield resident, he specializes in real estate although he does has have a handle on municipal government.

One position that was agreed to sometime last week was that of the Public Defender. Former Democratic Councilman Michael Diamond was appointed to a one-year term. He replaces Christine Nugent who was recently named to a full-time post of Deputy County Counsel by the new Democratic controlled Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She held a part-time position last year.

The full-time county post opened up upon the resignation of Henry Ogden, the son of former Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden.

Councilman Walsh said the agreement the Democrats thought they had ironed out with Republicans prior to last week’s council meeting changed when Ms. Nugent declined to be re-appointed thus throwing that position into the mix.

Councilman Hely was named Acting Mayor with new Democratic Fourth Ward Councilman Lawrence A. Goldman appointed Alternate Acting Mayor.

Councilman Gruba said the negotiations were "conducted on a progressive basis" but moved forward nonetheless. He emphasized that there was a "spirit of cooperation and a desire to reach an understanding" by each member of the council.

He said a number of persons were penciled into positions and than taken off the table during the negotiations.

"I believe there was a strong intent on everyone’s part from the beginning to put appropriate people in the positions," he said, explaining that by "appropriate" he means people qualified to serve in the role they were being put forward for.

Lawrence C. Mannino was re-appointed to a full four-year term on the Board of Adjustment. Due to the fact he had not been re-appointed as of Monday night, the board’s Vice Chairman, G. Graydon Curtis, was forced to fill in as Chairman during the board’s first meeting of the year. Also appointed to the board was David Haas. His term will expire at the end of next year.

Third Ward Councilman Neil F. Sullivan was re-appointed to the Planning Board as the council representative. This marks the fourth consecutive year he will serve on the board. He was an alternate in 1994 and has served last year as the Class No. 3 member. Court Administrator Linda Chieffo and Prosecutor Rafael J. Betancourt were both re-appointed by the governing body. Both are annual appointments.

Drew Harris, Lawrence Budnick, Town Administrator Edward A. Gottko, and Ellen Pollack were named to the Board of Health. The terms of Mr. Harris and Mr. Budnick are for four years while Mr. Gottko and Ms. Pollack were appointed to alternate seats which expire in two years.

Sal Antonelli was re-appointed to a full seat on the Recreation Commission. He had been the First Alternate. Former Fourth Ward Councilwoman Janis Fried Weinstein was appointed to a full seat. Both terms expire December 31, 1999. Melvyn Coren, who had occupied a full seat, was appointed to First Alternate, also a two-year appointment.

Florence Malcolm and Elizabeth H. List were re-appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission. Also appointed were Carolyn Klinger-Keuter, four-year seat; and Pamela McClure and Jane Stoner, both alternates. Alternate seats are for two years.

Carol Ginsberg, who served as an alternate of the Board of Adjustment last year, was named to the Board of Architectural Review along with James DeMarco who was named an alternate. Richard Elbert was re-appointed. Ms. Ginsberg and Mr. Elbert will serve for three years while Mr. Demarco’s terms is for one year.

Arnold E. Resnik, currently Vice Chairman of the Westfield Memorial Library Board of Trustees, was re-appointed to a new five-year term.

Ellen Anderson and Terry Tainow were named to the Local Assistance Board. Ms. Tainow’s term is for four years. Mayoral appointments that do not require council consent, included the Community Development Revenue Sharing Committee. Newly appointed were Joseph Stoner and Thomas Higgins. Donnell Carr was re-appointed to his seat. These seats are for one year.

William Kravic and Thomas O’Neill were named to the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, both annual appointments. Mr. O’Neill will serve as the alternate. Keith Firestone was re-appointed for a three-year term on the Insurance Advisory Board.

Appointed to the Union County Transportation Advisory Board were Marvin Gersten and Mark Millet. Clair Lazarowitz and Jonathan Spitz were named to the Cultural and Heritage Programs Advisory Board. Jeremy Feeder and Rosemary Millet were re-appointed to the Air Traffic Noise Advisory Board. All these seats are annual appointments.

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