Following a public apology from Mayor John Roth for a drunken incident that made national headlines, the Mahwah Township Council recommended Thursday night that he undergo an alcohol assessment and receive counseling on township policies and anti-discrimination laws.
“The mayor’s conduct on Jan. 10, 2020 is inappropriate and represents conduct unbecoming an elected official,” a resolution drafted by the council in executive session says.
The decision came after an investigation by a private attorney and an apology from Roth during the public portion of Thursday’s meeting for getting drunk and passing out, pantless, last month during a private party attended by township employees -- some of whom said they felt intimidated into not speaking out.
Such a resolution is considered a formal reprimand and not a censure.
“The findings of the investigation, as explained to me, were that no crimes had been committed, no laws were broken, no assault or inappropriate touching occurred, no property was damaged and no complaints have been filed with the township by any party,” Roth said.
“While, I’m relieved to learn the findings, as mayor, I acknowledge that my actions that evening were wrong,” he added. “They reflected poor judgement … and put my host and the employees attending in an uncomfortable position.
“They rightfully expected better from me, as the mayor.”
Council members discussed the matter in closed session with Labor Attorney Raymond Wiss, who provided them with a confidential report of an internal investigation he conducted into the matter.
The mayor had previously told a reporter that he’d apologized to the employee but considered the Jan. 10 incident a private matter.
That changed with Thursday night’s apology.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Roth expressed “remorse and sincere sorrow” and promised nothing like that would ever happen again.
“To my family, the event host, the township’s employees, town council and all the residents of Mahwah, I’m sorry. I let you down,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “This problem is being addressed by my family and I to ensure there is no reoccurrence.”
Daily Voice is withholding the name of the employee, who is identified along with her husband in an anonymous letter signed and circulated by "Concerned Employees of the Township of Mahwah."
In their letter to Roth, the employees said news of the incident had "leaked out" and that the mayor's "considerable disrespect for township employees...threatens our careers and livelihood."
The letter cites "considerable discourse among the employees, accusations and threats of poor treatment of anyone suspected of leaking the story."
The employees -- about two dozen of whom reportedly attended the party -- said they were "DEMANDING" (underlined) that Roth "apologize by email to the entire staff and gather all the employees together to make a public apology....Short of that you should resign your position."
If neither happened, the employees vowed to “file a hostile work [environment action] against you personally and the Township of Mahwah."
Roth said the letter caused "embarrassment and hurt that is beyond description” for him and his family, as well as on the township, its employees and the council.
Roth, who’d been a township councilman for 12 years and a school board trustee for five, became mayor two years ago after voters recalled Bill Laforet.
His seat is up for re-election this fall.
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