Republican Thomas Tucci, the township manager of Cedar Grove, was unanimously re-elected chairman of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission yesterday.
Tucci’s 6-0 win comes one year after the Murphy administration became involved in a contested race for vice chair and lost.
Last March, Newark city councilman Luis Quintana was elected vice chairman in a 7-1 vote against the candidate Murphy backed, former Bergen County freeholder Elizabeth Calabrese.
Quintana won another term as vice chairman, this time without opposition.
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 didn’t realize that Crump and Quintana were friends and allies.
Tucci is the brother of Nutley Commissioner Mauro Tucci. Maples’ father is Nutley Commissioner Thomas Evans, the Democratic Municipal Chairman. Seven years ago, Evans voted against Mauro Tucci becoming the interim mayor, and anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Nutley politics knows that grudges like that don’t go away easily.
Maples has since departed Trenton to become the general counsel of University Hospital.
Two Republican commissioners, Scott Heck and David Catuogno, resigned after that vote when Murphy threatened to remove them 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.
Earlier this year, Murphy pulled Cotton’s nomination and replaced her with Totowa councilman Brendan Murphy, the son of Passaic County Republican chairman Peter Murphy. After a deal between State Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus), Murphy dropped Cassella and nominated Republican John Cosgrove, a former Fair Lawn mayor.
Those nominations are still awaiting Senate confirmation.