By Ron Leir
EAST NEWARK –
As the borough’s municipal election campaign continues to heat up, a surprise political development has surfaced with the resignation of a longstanding sitting Borough Council member.
Edward V. Serafin, a Democrat and longtime ally of Mayor Joseph Smith, who has sat on the six-member council more than two decades overall, with one three-year break, submitted a letter of resignation, that took effect April 17, according to Smith. Serafin’s term runs through Dec. 31, 2015.
Smith said the letter gave no reason for Serafin’s decision. “He was retired from his job at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and I guess he figured it was time to move on,” the mayor said. “He spends a lot of time down the Shore.”
Serafin couldn’t be reached. A special meeting of the mayor and Borough Council has been called for Wednesday, April 30, at 5:30 p.m., to discuss appointing a possible interim replacement for Serafin, to serve through the Nov. 4 general election when candidates would run for the balance of Serafin’s unexpired term.
Smith, who chairs the local Dems County Committee, said the committee has submitted the names of three nominees for consideration by the members of the Borough Council.
Meanwhile, the campaign team of two political newcomers – Michael Magliotti and Gianni Donates – seeking to unseat Dems council members Hans Peter Lucas and Jeanne Zincavage in the June Primary has bumped up, indirectly and directly, against borough regulations.
Smith said a huge political sign for Magliotti/Donates’ “Put East Newark First” campaign was posted on the old Clark Thread/First Republic building – a move that Borough Fire Official George Kondek has cited as a failure by the owner to safely maintain the “abandoned” property, which has been largely stripped of water protection and to which entry is prohibited except for private security and emergency responders.
Smith said the sign, along with campaign fliers placed in the building’s windows, constituted “flammable materials.” Another issue surfaced, Smith said, when several residents complained that strangers were ringing their doorbells and handing them campaign fliers for the opposition ticket. “We asked them to go the police station to let them know what they were doing,” the mayor said. Asked if the incumbents had to do the same thing, Smith said that wasn’t necessary because “we’re the elected officials – people know who we are.”
Magliotti, who has spoken for the Put East Newark First team, couldn’t be reached.
In another matter slated for discussion at Wednesday’s special meeting, the council will be asked to authorize the borough engineer “to provide additional engineering services in connection with the remedial investigation of the municipal garage.”
Smith said the situation at the garage on Grant Ave. has been an ongoing saga since the early ‘90s when the borough began the process of removing three old underground fuel tanks with the idea that if the property were to be sold at some point, “we’d have clear title” [with no environmental restriction on the deed].
“We found that a gas tank had been leaking and we hired an environmental engineer around 1998 or 1999 who began digging up the soil to investigate what was happening but then he got scared and was worried that the foundation would give way and the garage would collapse,” Smith said.
The borough hired another engineer and got a conflicting opinion on how to proceed, Smith said. The borough has installed monitoring devices inside the garage to make sure workers aren’t being exposed to excessive levels of any toxins but, now, state environmental authorities are calling on the borough to continue the work.
“So that’s what we’re doing,” Smith said. “It’s just that every time you turn around, it’s another $15,000 to $20,000.”