Opponents Removed, Mayor's Wife Proposed as Municipal Alliance Member
Dismissed Committee member Dr. Louis Valori believes move is '100 percent political retribution.'
Not long after Mayor James Barberio allegedly met at Town Hall with municipal officials on Sunday, Jan. 13, to discuss a possible job for Dr. Louis Valori—who's now running for council on the ticket opposing the mayor's re-election slate—he sent a letter dated Feb. 11 to Valori telling the longtime Municipal Alliance Committee member that his services, though appreciated, were no longer required.
Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce President Robert J. Peluso, also running for council on the Paul Carifi Jr. mayoral ticket, said he received a similar letter from the mayor dated Jan. 15.
The Valori-Peluso campaign was launched Jan. 26; the duo announced that they were joining the Carifi ticket Feb. 7.
Barberio has yet to respond to questions on the matter that Patch sent to him last week. The letters received by Peluso and Valori said that he declined to reappoint the men to allow others to serve on MAC, which promotes drug awareness and prevention.
Committee Chair Annelise Catanzaro said Peluso and Valori, however, were not the longest-serving MAC members.
"I know of at least one member who has been on the committee for decades, Carol Adamsbaum," she told Patch. "She is a retired educator; actually she was my health teacher at Parsippany Hills High School back in the day. She provides a wealth of knowledge about education and prevention.
"Parsippany MAC benefits from having many perspectives, community connections and volunteers," Catanzaro added. "Lou Valori and Rob Peluso helped us to stay connected to the law enforcement and business communities, and I am grateful for their participation and service to the committee."
She added that unlike many mayors, Barberio is "very supportive" of MAC, regularly attending meetings and supporting the committee's events.
She said that council candidate Milin Shah, who is running on the mayor's ticket, was also not reappointed.
"Since his original appointment, Milin did not attend any MAC meetings or events, so I assumed he was not reappointed since he was inactive," said Catanzaro.
Valori claimed March 4 that the mayor offered him a media relations job with the Parsippany Police Department to convince him not to run for office this year—Barberio denies any formal job offer was made. Council President Brian Stanton confirmed the meeting at last Tuesday's meeting of the governing body, yet insists that no quid pro quo and no illegal bribe took place.
Valori said he has asked the state attorney general's office to investigate the matter.
The agenda for the March 12 Town Council meeting included a resolution to be considered by the council this Tuesday to consent to the mayor's appointment of his wife, Brenda Boch Barberio, to the committee, which focuses on preventing drug abuse in the township.
"My expulsion from the MAC is 100 percent political retribution from Mayor Barberio for me running on a slate with mayoral candidate Paul Carifi and council candidate Robert Peluso against the mayor and his team," Valori opined. "His immature and irrational behavior does not surprise me whatsoever."
Peluso said his concern has nothing to do with his running mate's allegations, with which he insisted that he has no involvement and about which he will not comment.
"A larger issue here is that in having an open and transparent government, an entire community should consistently be invited to become involved," he said. "The Municipal Alliance Committee discussed expanding the committee to include more volunteers over the years. With volunteers at an all-time low in many organizations, it's important to gracefully accept any invitation of assistance from our community."
Peluso suggested implementing an application process allowing residents to volunteer for any township committee with final approval by the mayor and council.
"If a family member of the mayor or council would like to join a committee, their application should be considered and that government official should excuse him or herself from the decision process," he said. "This process should also be formally advertised in the media. All township committees should consist of a diverse core of volunteers who represent our entire community, not just a few."
Valori said he believes the mayor's wife, if approved by the council, would be a fine MAC member.
"If Brenda wants to volunteer as member of the MAC team, that is wonderful and she is more than qualified for the post," he said. "I truly commend her for [her willingness to help shoulder] an important responsibility and a worthy cause for the children of Parsippany."
He added that whether the mayor's choice to elevate his spouse during an already contentious election season is a good political move is up to voters to decide.
Peluso said he believes his MAC membership was important and beneficial to Parsippany.
"My experience through working with our businesses, residents, volunteers, as well as our county enabled me to provide valuable feedback from the community as well as to secure donations from the business community to support programs to discourage the use of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and violence," he said, adding that he plans to continue to offer his experience in some volunteer capacity. "Many people want to protect their children as I want to protect my son from outside influences. This is why I volunteered to be one of the proctors at MAC's last Drug Prevention Leadership Summit.
"I am disappointed in the administration for not asking me for a recommendation for a representative from the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Parsippany Area Visitor Center to be reappointed to the Municipal Alliance Committee to serve our community."
Valori said Barberio in the past praised him and Peluso for their participation in last year's drug prevention summit. He touted his service as a former Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for 10 years and as for member of the Parsippany Board of Education to validate his value as a MAC member.
"What I find more interesting is that on Jan. 13, Mayor Barberio in the presence of Council President Brian Stanton and Township Attorney John Ingelisino had offered me a $50,000 director of community relations job, for which he thought I was highly qualified," said Valori.
"I find it very interesting that I have all the qualifications for a $50,000 job but that I am no longer needed to be MAC vice president."