Council Votes Different, Results the Same

Council Votes Different, Results the Same

Editorial 9-18

Council Votes Different, Results the Same

For Paul A. Battiloro, Susan MacMullen

Last week, through the actions of the Westfield and Fanwood governing bodies, two new officials have either joined or moved up in the ranks.

The Westfield Town Council approved the appointment of Paul A. Battiloro, Jr., as its new Fire Chief on September 9. He replaces Walter Ridge, who retired at the end of June after meeting the state’s mandatory retirement age. Two nights later the Fanwood Borough Council named Susan MacMullen as its Municipal Judge, replacing Jacqueline Drakeford.

While the appointment of Chief Battiloro was unanimously approved in a 9-0 tally, Judge MacMullen was voted in by a count of 4-3, as the three Republicans on the council voted against her appointment. A resident of Elizabeth, Ms. MacMullen and her husband, Union County Manager Michael J. Lapolla, are planning to move to Westfield.

Judge MacMullen was most recently an Assistant Prosecutor in the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Lapolla was First Assistant Prosecutor in the same office until his appointment as County Manager, replacing Ann M. Baran. Both served under the late Prosecutor, Andrew K. Ruotolo of Westfield, who was appointed by former Governor James J. Florio.

While Ms. MacMullen has left the prosecutor’s office, Ms. Drakeford has joined that same office which is now headed by Thomas V. Manahan of Westfield, an appointee of Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Among the concerns expressed by Fanwood Republicans were the fact that she had not been a resident of the immediate area and that because she was coming directly from the Prosecutor’s Office, Ms. MacMullen might not be objective as a judge since her background involved prosecuting violent criminals in the trial division of the prosecutor’s office. She also worked in the juvenile and family court area.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Battiloro’s appointment are much different. The council had been expected to take action on August 6. A Westfield Board of Education candidate in 1995, he has taken over a department which includes a paid staff of about 35 and a volunteer company of some 20 men.

We expect Mr. Battiloro will be a strong leader with the department. With 22 years under his belt as Deputy Chief, he has served as Fire Protection Officer since 1973 and has been an officer since 1972, when he was named Lieutenant. He moved up to Captain in 1973.

He is the licensed Fire Sub-Code Official for Westfield and has served as Fire Official and Inspector since 1988, and as Director of Emergency Management since 1978. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders appointed him to the county’s Construction Board of Appeals in 1987, a position he still held at the time of his appointment as Chief.

We congratulate both appointees and wish them well in their new roles, and ask that, in the case of Judge MacMullen, that the full Fanwood Council give her every opportunity to prove herself to be fair and impartial on the bench.

Proof: 10:24 AM on 9/15/97Page #1