Mayor Derek Armstead has defeated state Sen. Nicholas Scutari’s effort to have Paul Coates seated as the 8th Ward councilman for a second time, as Appellate Division Judge Amy O’Connor handed down a ruling denying the appeal of a lower court order.
Scutari, in his capacity as chair of the Linden Democratic Committee, filed a motion in Superior Court with Coates seeking to nullify a City Council vote to keep the seat vacant until the November election.
The vacancy was created when the previous representative, Council President Michele Yamakaitis, resigned to take the office to which she was elected in November.
The council voted 8-1, with one abstention, at the Jan. 15 meeting not to fill the vacancy, with members holding a consensus to let 8th Ward voters determine who should fill the unexpired portion of Yamakaitis’ term.
The conflict is part of a political battle that started when Scutari refused to compromise with Armstead on the selection of a city Democratic leader, grabbing the seat for himself after Freeholder Chris Hudak gave up the job.
Armstead then ran for Union County Democratic Committee vice chair on a slate with Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr who sought to stay in the office she filled temporarily, as then-vice chair of the party, after the death of Assemblyman Gerald Green.
Scutari beat Mahr with a 70-vote margin, then set out to install his aide, Ed Oatman, as county manager as he began to purge Democrats who backed his rival in the election for county political boss.
Scutari, who represents the 22nd Legislative District, which includes Linden, Plainfield, Rahway and other towns, was fired from a part time $85,000 job as the municipal prosecutor after 16 years in the position.
He then tried to force Coates, one of his political allies, into the vacant seat on the governing body, where he needs to gain two more votes to emasculate Armstead’s power as mayor.
The matter now goes back to Superior Court Judge Katherine Dupuis, who previously recognized the city’s right to leave the seat vacant pending a final hearing scheduled for March 15.
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