The head of the Ridgefield Republican Party says that the state’s extensive review of the borough’s municipal development contracts that sprung from the arrest of its mayor has cost the small town about $10,000 so far.
Robert Avery said he got the figure from Borough Administrator John Baldino and Borough Attorney Doug Doyle at last night’s council meeting, and that they indicated that the expenses would grow significantly. Avery said he asked Mayor Anthony Suarez, who is charged with taking a $10,000 bribe from a federal informant, whether he would pay those expenses himself. Suarez did not answer, which Avery took as a no.
Baldino and Doyle could not be reached for comment to confirm the figure.
After his arrest, Suarez faced pressure to step down from angry residents, political opponents and Gov. Jon Corzine. He refused, prompting Corzine to issue an executive order freezing development in towns with a sitting mayor who has been charged with public corruption. Corzine also called on state departments to review development-related applications.
Avery, who is launching an effort to recall Suarez, argued that the borough would not have incurred the expenses if Suarez stepped down, and could save thousands of dollars in future expenses if he stepped down now.
“If he would step down, that expense would not be required,” said Avery.
But the comptroller’s review is separate and farther reaching than the Governor’s executive order. In addition to Ridgefield – one of only two towns in the state where a sitting mayor is being prosecuted for alleged corruption – they are reviewing contracts in most towns that were touched by last months’ bust: Hoboken, Jersey City and Secaucus.
“We are reviewing contracts in Ridgefield and other public entities where such a review was deemed warranted. Changes in personnel will not impact the status of the reviews,” said Pete McAleer, a spokesman for state Comptroller Matthew Boxer.
Avery said that he has filed his petition to start the recall with the municipal clerk on Friday. He has to wait five business days to give Suarez a chance to respond before he starts collecting signatures.
Avery has until September 15 to collect the roughly 1,400 signatures needed to force a recall during the November general election.
“It’s at the end of the summer, half the town is on vacation and half of our people are on vacation as well. So if not for that issue it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to do,” said Avery. “There’s an outrage in the community over Mr. Suarez’s refusal to step down.”
Avery, a former council president who lost the 2007 mayoral race to Suarez by 90 votes, plans to run again if he succeeds in recalling the Mayor.