As residents continue recover from super storm Sandy as well as a nor'easter that dumped a few inches of snow on the township Wednesday night, Scotch Plains Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Malool, 52, was released from his position on Nov. 7.
Malool told Patch that he was fired yesterday morning by Mayor Mary DePaola. Malool said he believes he was fired because the mayor was dissatisfied with his job performance during super storm Sandy. He added, however, that the mayor will not say whether her reasoning was also political.
Malool is the husband of former Mayor, Nancy Malool who was replaced by Mary DePaola in June. Nancy Malool left her position as mayor of Scotch Plains to take a position in state government. According to a state policy, employees of the state are not allowed to hold elected positions.
According to DePaola, Malool was replaced by Police Chief Brian Mahoney, who allegedly showed greater efficiency when coordinating emergency efforts to handle last night's nor'easter. DePaola further added that Malool failed to include her and the police chief in recent team meetings that were held in advance of the recent storms.
The mayor also said Malool did not have a plan in place prior to the storm.
According to Malool, the Scotch Plains Office of Emergency management had a plan set in place. The friday prior to the storm Malool and Fire Chief Jonathan Ellis met with all 21 OEM coordinators in Union County to be briefed on the county's plan for Hurricane Sandy, which is common procedure for major storms.
Malool added that following the county meeting, a meeting was called by the Scotch Plains Township Manager Henry Underhill who was notified to gather together important personnel of town. At the time, Police Chief Brian Mahoney was not available so the assistant township manager went to retrieve a representative from the police department.
" I even asked where the mayor was and got no answer," Malool said. "Throughout the storm, we held daily meetings (all disciplines) including the mayor to brief her on various activities."
According to Malool those actives included, shelters, warming stations, food for the senior center and the generator he suggested be purchased for Scotch Hills.
"As I was dropping food off to the Evangel Church, I ran into Councilman Vastine and showed him my phone that I was trying to get in touch with Mayor DePaola numerous times and was not getting answer," Malool said.
When Patch spoke to DePaola on a seperate issue, she had mentioned that she also has no power and her phone is not constantly charged since she has been using it often on other phone calls. DePaola provided this information to Patch, prior to Malool stating that he had trouble contacting her.
According to Malool the Mayor's role was brought up twice during the meeting:
"In the Scotch Plains Plans that are approved by NJ State OEM, both township Administrator and Mayor act as the Public Information Officer, since the coordinator is busy during the event. Mr. Underhill asked and it was explained that the Mayor is the liaison to the power company’s due to the fact that their liaisons want to deal with elected officials," Malool said.
Malool has been involved in Emergency Management for more than 25 years and was appointed by Mayor Martin Marks in 2001, early 2002. Under Marks' tenure, Malool was reappointed twice. According to Malool he is also the only certified Emergency Manager in Union County.
DePaola seemed confident that Mahoney woud be a better fit for the position, stating that he was well-prepared for the nor'easter.
Deputy Mayor Bo Vastine, said the decision to release Malool from his position should have been made before the storm hit.
"An inadequate plan, personal feelings and politics got in the way of him fulfilling his responsibilities effectively and in the best interest of the residents of Scotch Plains," Vastine said, confirming the fact that meetings were called by Malool without including the mayor and police chief. "However, the decision was made not to disrupt the structure in the middle if a crisis."
Malool added that The New Jersey Office of Emergency management approves Scotch Plains' Emergency Operation Plans every three years.
Patch will include more information as it becomes available.