Amid intense acrimony over state charges of discrimination and nasty political bickering in Mahwah, a group of volunteers gathered and delivered 5,000 signatures -- over 800 more than they needed -- seeking a November vote to recall Mayor William Laforet.
The Committee to Recall Mayor Laforet says it had an even higher calling than the latest headlines: Committee leader Melanie Sue said the recall was initiated mostly to honor the legacy of deceased DPW Director Ed Sinclair, NJ.com reports.
Laforet suspended Sinclair from his post after claiming that child pornography was found on his computer four years ago.
Even though two separate investigations found the accusation false, the mayor kept his political opponent suspended before the Council reinstated him.A few months later, Sinclair died suddenly of a heart attack. His widow, in turn, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, contending the stress caused by Laforet contributed to her husband's death.
Several recall workers who attended Thursday's Council meeting wore buttons bearing Sinclair's picture.
The recall, Sue told NJ.com, was initiated as a way of "honoring the legacy of Mr. Sinclair."
Laforet says the recall petition was sparked by the fact that he was standing up for civil rights.
The mayor has blamed the Council for trying to prevent a group of Orthodox Jews from neighboring New York from constructing a religious boundary known as an eruv in town or from using public parks.
State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the township.
Township Clerk Kathrine Coviello has until July 12 to certify at least 4,170 of the recall petition's signatures -- 25% of Mahwah's registered voters.
If she does, Laforet can go to court to try and block it or let it proceed.
A candidate who defeats Laforet in a recall election would then immediately take office, once the county Board of Elections has certified the results.
Laforet dodged a recall effort in 2015 after a group failed to get the necessary amount of signatures. He was re-elected to a second term a year later
It is the second effort in three years to recall Laforet. The previous attempt failed in 2015 when volunteers were unable to generate the necessary number of signatures to place the question on the ballot and win signature certification by the August filing deadline.
Laforet was subsequently re-elected to his second four-year term in 2016 with less than 38% of the vote, topping second-place finisher John Roth by fewer than 100 votes.
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