For the third time since Gov. Phil Murphy’s ill-fated attempt to take over the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in early 2018, Republican Thomas Tucci, the township manager of Cedar Grove, has been re-elected to the chairmanship without opposition.
That could set up Murphy to spend his entire term without controlling the North Jersey agency.
Two months after taking office, Murphy made a play to take over when his staff told commissioners to install former Bergen County Freeholder Elizabeth Calabrese to fill the vacant vice chair post. Instead, Newark Councilman Luis Quintana defeated Calabrese by a 7-1 vote.
The 2018 loss was an early misstep for Gov. Phil Murphy’s fledgling administration and his authorities unit director, Mary Maples.
Maples started calling commissioners on behalf of Calabrese. One of her calls was to Newark Councilwoman Mildred Crump – Maples did not realize that Crump and Quintana were friends and allies. She no longer works for the administration.
Murphy sought to take control by pressing two Republican commissioners, Scott Heck and David Catuogno. He said if they didn’t leave voluntarily, they would be removed for not living within the PVSC geographic boundaries.
Murphy nominated Passaic mayor Hector Lora, Paterson council president Ruby Cotton and East Rutherford mayor James Cassella, a Republican, to fill three open seats last June, but the State Senate never confirmed them.
Instead, a new package went through naming Lora and two Republicans: former Fair Lawn Mayor John Cosgrove and Totowa Councilman Brendan Murphy, the son Passaic County GOP Chairman Peter Murphy.