MAHWAH – Members of the township council spoke out in response to Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet’s critical defense of his decision to try to fire the Bergen County township’s Department of Public Works director, a move that when overturned led to a council meeting meltdown.
A video that emerged from last Thursday’s Mahwah council meeting shows the inflammatory atmosphere following the council’s 6-0 vote to overturn Laforet’s decision to fire Mahwah D.P.W. Director Ed Sinclair because of alleged inappropriate material found on a D.P.W. computer.
The video depicts the volatile moment when Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio stepped to the front of the dais after the vote, holding a 2012 campaign poster that depicted her and fellow Republicans Steve Sbarra, Council President John Roth, and Sinclair.
Laforet, an independent, defeated Sinclair, a Republican, in the non-partisan 2012 Mahwah mayoral election. Yet Laforet named Sinclair to be the township’s D.P.W. director in 2014.
After claiming that Laforet brought the poster to the closed session meeting in a bid to keep the Republican council members from voting because of a conflict of interest since they ran with Sinclair, DiGiulio lashed out at Laforet.
DiGiulio’s response included a scatological epithet and obscene gesturing directed at Laforet.
The council soon thereafter voted in favor of a motion of no confidence by a 4-2 margin, with one abstention, against Laforet.
Laforet’s response to the statements made at the chaotic meeting, detailed in an interview with PolitickerNJ, included a defense of his actions as being in the best interest of Mahwah. Laforet also specifically claimed that he had “no idea” about how the 2012 campaign poster got in the room where the closed session meeting about Sinclair’s fate was held.
Roth was the first Mahwah councilman to refute Laforet’s claims about both the mayor’s decision regarding Sinclair as well as statements Laforet made to PolitickerNJ during a March 24 interview.
“There was no substantial evidence that was presented that would definitively link any of the allegations that [Laforet] was making to any individual,” Roth said. “He was unable to convince a single councilperson to vote in favor of the action that he supported.
“At the end of the closed session, [Laforet] requested if I would reach behind myself to a pile of large cardboard boards standing vertically, He then directed me to a specific location where there was a board wrapped in brown paper,” added Roth in an email, referring to Laforet’s claims about the 2012 campaign poster. “At his request I handed the large board to him, he unwrapped it and the rest is history.”
Sbarra, the Mahwah council’s vice president, also focused on the poster issue.
“[Laforet] flat out lied to [PolitickerNJ],” Sbarra said. “He planted it in the room, put brown paper around it and sealed it with masking tape. He then ripped it open and asked our township attorney if that was a conflict of interest. If he does not know how it got there, he’s flat out lying. The council, with the evidence presented, absolutely did the right thing. When you attack people and their reputation, and then you lie about it, you open this town up to liability. That is a major concern.”
Councilman Rob Hemansen targeted Laforet’s statement that the council’s vote to reinstate Sinclair “was political.”
“I’m surprised that he would say something like that, knowing that the vote was 6-0,” Hermansen, a former Bergen County freeholder, said. “I think 6-0 sends a message that it was anything but political. It’s one of the reasons why I called for the vote of no confidence. This is a man who I honestly believe is delusional. This is not good for the town of Mahwah. There is one person, and one person only, to blame for this, and it’s the mayor.”
“Mayor Laforet’s notice to suspend and terminate my client’s employment was unfounded and reversed by an unprecedented 6-0 vote by the Township Council,” said Sinclair’s attorney, Michael D. Camarinos of Mavroudis & Guarino. “Mr. Sinclair has been exonerated of these baseless allegations and his employment as Director of the Department of Public Works will continue.”