Independent councilman and deputy fire chief Michael Gonnelli will be resigning one of those titles before the March 24 public meeting.
Gonnelli lost his protracted battle to retain both positions in town when a Hudson County superior court judge said today that he has to step down from either the council or the fire department.
“They ruled against me in Hudson County court today and I have to resign from the council or the volunteer fire chief position by Tuesday,” Gonnelli said in a brief interview with eSecaucus.com. Asked which post he will vacate, the 35-year volunteer fire fighter declined to reveal his decision: “I made my decision but I just don’t want to make it public yet.” (Update: A source close to the situation said Gonnelli has indicated he will relinquish the deputy fire chief reins while remaining with the department and retaining the council seat.)
Gonnelli represents the 2nd Ward in Secaucus.
The legal standoff between Gonnelli and some town officials has been contentious since an ethics complaint was filed in 2006 alleging that his two positions are in conflict. The town also sued Gonnelli earlier this year and the legal decision today was a response to the town’s motion for a summary judgment.
“It didn’t come as a big shock to me,” he said today. “I was hoping it would be resolved in Trenton, where I thought I would get a fairer shake. It’s unfortunate because I’ve been doing this for so many years,” he said of the fire department, “and I may have to give it up.”
Gonnelli is expected to challenge Mayor Dennis Elwell and his slate of Democrats in the fall election.