East Orange Water Commissioners Reinstated

NJ Spotlight News | December 17, 2014 | Politics
Two East Orange Water Commissioners who challenged the mayor's decision to fire them, where reinstated.

By Michael Hill

According to reinstated East Orange Water Commissioner Darryl Walls, his four-year term has only been about public service and the right stewardship of the water department.

On whether he was the mayor’s yes man, Walls said, “That’s correct. I’m a yes man for what is going to help build the East Orange Water Commission.”

But, soon after East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor came in to office in January, he fired Walls and three other water commissioners.

“This was not personal, it was business. A $3 million deficit, failure to recruit and hire an executive director, failure to invest in the infrastructure of the commission for over a decade resulting in $10 million to $20 million of necessary repairs — I find that to be unacceptable,” said Taylor.

These two former department heads falsified records of a carcinogen in the water. Harry Mansmann died. William Mowell is serving a three-year prison term.

The mayor also accused the commissioners of gross financial mismanagement.

“At no time, at no time have I ever in that category and it’s irrefutable,” Walls said.

The council held hearings and took testimony and reviewed thousands of pages of documents and voted to reinstate the two commissioners.

“I’m ecstatic but I’m humbled because we have worked vigilantly. The hours that we have put in were significant and the results that we anticipated were positive,” said Walls.

On each of five charges, at least a two-third’s majority of the council voted the charges were unfounded.

Council Member Andrea McPhatter says the commissioners were not guilty of the allegations they were accused of. She says in the absence of department heads, the commissioners didn’t fail. They did what they could. I was quite impressed with the business acumen of commissioner Walls — who documented he spent countless hours working to right the water department ship.

“So if the council doesn’t agree with my determination to remove these commissioners, that’s their prerogative but I believe our ratepayers and our constituents deserve better,” said Taylor.

Walls’ term ends this month and he would like re-appointment but concedes that’s unlikely to happen given the mayor’s sticking to his guns.

Walls concedes that’s unlikely to happen given the mayor’s sticking to his guns.