When the new , the business portion of the Township Council's Tuesday night meeting began—and much of the session focused on bickering over whether the promotion was the right thing to do.
The primary combatants were Mayor James Barberio and Councilman Paul Carifi Jr. The two traded verbal jabs and accused the other of putting politics above the best interests of Parsippany residents.
Barberio and Police Chief Anthony DeZenzo cast doubt on the motives of those who disagreed publicly with their decision to promote Storms.
The mayor commented regarding Councilman Michael dePierro's proposed amendment to limit the police to three captains.
"Five years ago, we had an agreement to leave the fourth position vacant," dePierro said. "We are top-heavy in management. Our priority should be getting more patrolmen rather than spending more money on more [senior officers]."
Councilman Carifi agreed.
"When I ran for council, I said I would look out for the taxpayers' interests," he said. "This is not how the taxpayers' money should be spent. The mayor just wants what he wants and does what he wants."
"They're talking about $8,000 difference [in Storms' salary] in making him a captain," Barberio argued. "They're going to put public safety at risk for $8,000. They say, 'Oh, we should hire more police officers.' How are you going to hire more police officers for $8,000? The only way you're going to hire more police officers is if you put them on and vote them in. They have to stop using that excuse. Don't tell me they're trying to save tax dollars."
"They wanted to take my [request for four new police officers] in the budget hearings and cut it to three," DeZenzo said.
[At the budget hearings in March, and () were the ones who called for the chief's request to be limited to three new hires.]
"Managing the Office of Emergency Management is clearly a managerial position," the chief said. "Emergency response, preparedness and recovery is paramount. We should be at the forefront. Parsippany's the biggest municipality in Morris County. I'm not beating up on [former OEM Coordinator, now Deputy Coordinator] Eric Hubner. He did a good job for where we were at that time. But we have a vision, and it's time for us to move forward to make our emergency management the best in the state."
Carifi explained his back and forth with the mayor.
"I could not believe that he went ahead and did this," he told Patch. "I didn't even know they were doing the promotion until 6:30, a half-hour before. The mayor promised there would be a council discussion. He couldn't wait an hour to discuss it first, as he promised?"
"They've got to stop playing politics," Barberio said. "They created this ordinance to block me. They're full of it when they say they're not. If I didn't make the move, preparedness and security would be affected.
"They tried to put my back against the wall by saying wait longer, wait longer," he added. "I'm not an idiot. If I waited, they would have an ordinance and then we couldn't have done what needs to be done for the town. I wasn't going to change my mind. So I went ahead and did what the town needed me to do and promoted Capt. Storms."
The mayor said he sat down with Councilman dePierro, who proposed the plan to limit the PPD to three captains, and they came to an agreement to eliminate a lieutenant's position in exchange for having a fourth captain.
DePierro said after the meeting, he thought about the matter and realized he didn't feel comfortable with having a fourth captain after all.
"Fine, he didn't feel comfortable," Barberio said. "Well, I went home and thought about it too. I didn't feel comfortable waiting. So I moved forward."
During the council meeting's public comment portion, some residents defended the mayor's move.
"We elected the mayor to do a job," said Jerry Manning, lambasting those who criticized Barberio.
Milin Shah, Barberio's choice to fill the council vacancy that went to James Vigilante, criticized Carifi, whose brother James is a PPD captain, for speaking on the matter because of what he saw as a conflict of interest.
Carifi dismissed the notion of a conflict, and Town Attorney John Inglesino said that while he would not tell a council member not to speak or vote on an issue, it certainly was possible that some might perceive such a conflict.
Carifi then accused Shah of speaking at the mayor's behest.
Shah was vehement in his denial.
"I stood to speak my own mind," he said, noting that as a student at Seton Hall Law School, he has studied the phenomenon of conflicts of interest. "[Carifi]'s just trying to get attention because he plans to run for mayor."
Carifi did not reject the notion of running for mayor, and he told Patch that many residents have told him they would support his candidacy if he opted to run.
"But that isn't why I speak up," he said. "I said during my campaign that if I agree with the mayor, great, but if I disagree, I'm going to disagree and tell you why. Now, all of a sudden, I'm disagreeing on something, and they're not happy about it and trying to silence me. I don't believe there is a conflict of interest at all. I think that if you ask the general public who were at this meeting tonight, they would agree with me."
Carifi also said the approxmatelty $8,000 difference in pay between a lieutenant and a captain is not the issue, noting that the expenses of a car and benefits and eventual payouts had to be considered as well.
"And the point is that there are too many managers," he said, citing his day job working for the Morris County Sheriff's Office. "There is one supervisor for every 2.3 patrolmen in Parsippany. Where I work, we have one captain for about 80 officers. Parsippany has about the same number of higher-ups as it did when there were 113 officers on the force. That doesn't make sense."
Carifi also pointed out that he wasn't buying Mayor Barberio's argument that it was necessary for a senior police officer to oversee emergency management.
"I questioned why couldn't OEM be placed under the deputy chief," he said. "The mayor never responded."
The councilman during the meeting turned the accusation of having a conflict back onto the mayor, calling him out publicly on helping his 18-year-old daughter's boyfriend obtain a position for a township water department job that pays about $30,000 per year.
Barberio scoffed at that idea.
"He's not blood," the mayor said. "There is a difference."
"Many people would perceive a conflict there, that's all I'm saying," Carifi told Patch, adding that it's Barberio who's playing politics. "The mayor cannot deal with disagreement."
Mayor Barberio told Patch he had no problem with people disagreeing with him.
"But I have a job to do," he said. "People can disagree with me all they want, but at the end of the day, I was elected to make the hard decisions and look out for the best interests of this town.
"That's exactly what I did. And no one's going to stop me from doing what I know is right for Parsippany-Troy Hills."