Controversial mayor ousted in recall vote

Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet will lose his job after residents voted to recall him from office, candidates confirmed.  

And voters also decided that John Roth should take over as mayor. Laforet could have both been recalled and elected on the same ballot.

“I’ve given seven years of my life to this community as mayor and I’m proud of my accomplishments and the body of work we have produced,” Laforet said Tuesday night. “It creates a long-lasting foundation of economic growth for our community. I hope my opponent becomes a good steward of the things that are already set in place. I wish him well.”

Laforet also said this is not the end of his political career, but would not comment about future aspirations.

Roth, who served 12 years on the council, five years on the school board and two on the planning board, will be sworn in after the votes are certified by the county clerk. The exact date is not yet know.

“This just goes to show you how unique Mahwah is,” Roth said. “When voters are unhappy and don’t feel like they’re being served correctly, they change it. I was a benefactor of that and I’m thankful to all the people who voted for me.” 

This was the second attempt to recall Laforet but the first that made it to the polls. 

The first bid was abandoned in August 2015 when the group failed to collect 4,200 signatures by their deadline. 

This latest effort was launched in January by a group of residents who call themselves The Committee to Recall Mayor William Laforet. They blame Laforet for several lawsuits and bad press the township has gotten. They also said he showed incompetent management, poor judgment, abused his power, and encouraged divisiveness.

“This is beyond words,” said Melanie Sue, the chairperson of the recall committee. “We are so proud to be part of this new chapter. This is a first step in the right direction for this beautiful town that has unfortunately been used as a pawn for party politicians. That changed today.”

“People really can make a difference,” she said.

Laforet, who has fashioned himself as a civil rights champion, says that Mahwah has thrived during his time on office. He says it has the lowest taxes in the county, is one of the safest communities in the state, has two AAA bond ratings and world-class businesses are setting up shop in the township.

Laforet and the council have been at odds for years. He blamed them for an ordinance banning non-residents from parks, which resulted in two lawsuits that have since been settled.

And he has been criticized for falsely accusing the former DPW Director Ed Sinclair — who ran for mayor against Laforet in 2012 — of having child pornography on his work computer. Laforet suspended Sinclair but the council reinstated him during a raucous council meeting in March 2015. Sinclair died months later and his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the township. 

Laforet was first elected mayor in 2011. His current term term expired in 2020. 

Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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