EMT lawsuit sparks flashpoint in developing Paterson mayor’s contest

PATERSON – Embroiled in a nascent re-electionbid theday after EMTs filed a lawsuit against him and the city, Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres naturally absorbed additional campaign trail criticism of hisefforts to consolidate the city's emergency management services.

Already bewailing the seven-year absence of a contract for the EMTs, Angelo Bisceglie, attorney for the Paterson Emergency Medical Technicians Association, said Torres's plan would eliminate EMTs and replace them with firefighters at three times the cost.

"Torres's plan is dangerous, irresponsible, and simply wrong," the attorney said."We are confident that the courts will uphold the contractural obligations the City of Paterson has to its ambulance operators."

Torres said the lawyer has it wrong.

"This group has changed the collective bargaining agreement three times," said the mayor, who insisted that he has no intention of phasing out part-time EMTS.

"If I was going to do that, why is the money in the budget?" Torres wondered.

But Council President Jeffrey Jones, who's running against Torres next year, said the plan that could ultimately eliminate 16 part-time EMTs from the ranks of34 totalon-the-street healthcare professionals,exemplifies the mayor's callousness.

"I would actually consider expanding some of their work and make it a contractural obligation," Jones said."This is a decision that directly impacts the working poor.Joey Torresneeds to leave the administration andbecome adeveloper, and leave humanitarian issues to those of us who care. These are people doing a service we need."

A second declared candidate in the mayor's race, Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh also said he opposesa consolidation plan.

And he criticized Torres's methods.

"Joey hascost us $4million in lawsuits," said the candidate. "On this one class action lawsuit brought against Joey -the Spagnola case -hehas at least five law firms working onit. The taxpayers are outraged. One law firm is working on punative damages, which is almost conceding defeat. He could have handled it differently. I'm not opposed to it if it will save the city money, butan agreement could have been worked out. His managenment style is a problem. Sometimes when you micromanage, you tend to mismanage."

Sayegh, who formally launched his campaign last Thursday – the day he picked up his petitions – today told PolitickerNJ.com that he already obtained the required 666 petition signatures to qualify as a candidate for mayor.

Fighting Torres with his own lawsuit related to his dismissal as police chief, the one refrenced by Sayegh, Larry Spagnola is now mulling a second mayoral challenge.

"I've always observed thatour EMTsare highly professional -one of thefinest in the state," said the former chief."I wants to know what firefighters would say. Are they willing to accept this? Are they willing to do these duties typically performed by EMTs? Agroup of people you force to do something will not be as effective but if they're welcoming it with open arms, that's another story."

Spagnola has not yet picked up petitions to run for mayor.

EMT lawsuit sparks flashpoint in developing Paterson mayor’s contest