Passaic County Freeholders are replacing Bill Pascrell III as their county counsel after 21 years, according to five sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pascrell has served as a part-time county counsel while heading a top Trenton lobbying firm. Sources say freeholders want to reconfigure their law division with a full-time lawyer and reduce spending for outside counsel.
The timing is odd, since the freeholders have had no apparent problem with Pascrell’s job performance. He has been appointed seven times as county counsel and has never had a vote cast in opposition — even when there were Republicans on the freeholder board.
Pascrell’s tenure as county counsel predates all seven freeholders, including Bruce James, the leader of the dump Pascrell movement.
The new county counsel will be Mike Glovin, the longtime assistant county counsel. The agenda for the freeholder meeting lists the appointment of Glovin.
Pascrell earned $126,000-a-year for the post.
The move sets up a potential intra-party conflict between Passaic County Democratic chairman John Currie and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson), the father of the county counsel.
Major decisions like the appointment of a county counsel do not happen without Currie’s sign-off, said sources familiar with the decision-making process in Passaic County.
The decision was made last week by the four members of the Board of Freeholders finance committee, which is chaired by James, a top Currie lieutenant.
James is closely allied with Tom Buckley, an old-time Republican operative in a long-standing feud with Passaic County GOP chairman Peter Murphy. Buckley was an advisor to another Murphy foe, former Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne).
Some Democrats say the friendship between Pascrell III and Peter Murphy is entirely too close.
Freeholder Assad Akhter said he was unaware of the plan to remove Pascrell until today.
“Any action on the county counsel was done without my knowledge or consent,” Akhter said.
Akhter and Freeholder T.J. Best both served on Rep. Pascrell’s congressional staff. Another freeholder, Terry Duffy, has close ties to Pascrell.
Bartlett told the New Jersey Globe today that he was out of town and unable to comment.
Pascrell III has been a fixture in his own right in New Jersey politics for the last thirty years. He served as an aide to Gov. Jim Florio, as chief of staff to Rep. Herb Klein (D-Clifton) and as counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy’s transition team.
The vote on a new county counsel comes before Passaic County Democrats hold their screening committee meeting to select organization candidates for the June primary.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Bartlett served on the finance committee.