Embattled Chairman Michael Kasparian has fired the Bergen County Democratic Organization’s legal counsel, Paul Kaufman, ending a standing agreement with factions of his party, according to sources close to the BCDO.
Kasparian avoided an intra-party fight over the summer when Kaufman – a Fort Lee attorney who drew support from state Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) – pulled his name from consideration for the chairmanship.
Kasparian did not respond to comment requests, but sources close to the new party leader said this move reflects a growing distrust between party players.
The agreement reached earlier this year was that Kasparian would take the chair, but Kaufman would be his closest advisor, assumedly to keep the other factions of the party informed, namely Sarlo.
Sarlo’s chief of staff, Chris Eilert, was unaware of the firing and had no immediate comment.
Kasparian took over in 2009 after former chairman, Joe Ferriero, resigned under indictment.
Kaufman’s firing represents the newest salvo in an ever growing public battle between Kasparian and Sarlo, the former growing weary with the weight of seven consecutive losses on his shoulders. Sarlo, on the other hand, is hoping to reap the rewards of his successful arm wrestling contest with Kasparian over the appointment of the 36th District Assembly seat.
Sarlo kept the seat in Nutley, at the behest of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, while Kasparian flirted with organizing the interested parties in Bergen against Sarlo to bring the seat back home. In the end, Kasparian’s democratic leadership of the organization – a clear juxtaposition next to Ferriero’s top-down edicts – was his undoing.
The Bergen committee chairs were either unable to decide on an agreeable candidate, or unwilling to combat Sarlo with Kasparian at the helm.
Kasparian is only six months into a two-year contract, so removing him is nearly impossible, short of wrongdoing. Although pressure is growing for his resignation, Kasparian seems more than willing to wait out what has been an extraordinarily powerful wave of success for Republicans statewide and in Bergen County.
According to one Bergen insider, it should come as no surprise that Kasparian let Kaufman go without communicating the move beforehand. He fired BCDO Executive Director Matt McHale in a similar fashion when he took control of the party organization.
In what could be considered an olive branch of sorts, McHale, also the mayor of Dumont, was recently given the executive director position at the county’s financing arm, the BCIA that last year paid a salary of $167,000.