Election 2012

Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/21/2012 07:07:04 AM PDT
Updated: 10/21/2012 05:37:38 PM PDT

MONTCLAIR – If there is any question how contentious the City Council race has become, just look to the campaign being run by the city’s police and fire unions in an effort to unseat the incumbents.

The Montclair Firefighters Association and the Montclair Police Officers Association have expended nearly $30,000 backing newcomers Sean Brunske and Richard Beltran.

The associations are looking to oust John Dutrey and Carolyn Raft on Election Day Nov. 6, claiming the politicians do not have the best interests of residents at heart.

But Dutrey said the associations have gotten involved in the political fray simply for their own financial benefit. He said the council race has become about pension costs.

“You have two associations that are determined to control the City Council with their two candidates. It’s a disgrace that they are going to this level to influence this City Council, to influence the policy for the basic purpose to put more money in their pocket,” Dutrey said. “I’m determined to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

The public safety associations have been at odds with City Hall over pension costs and labor contracts.

“We have not asked for a raise. It’s not about the money for us, it’s about the protection of the citizens. We’re not trying to control anything,” said Chris Jackson, president of the Montclair Firefighters Association.

But the police association has said in the past it would consider recalling the entire council if the two sides can’t come to an understanding about who is responsible for the 6 percent “employee share” of pension costs – the union says the city should continue paying it, city leaders say employees should pick it up.

“This is the first time that police and fire have ever joined forces,” said Eric Cholly, president of the Montclair Police Officers Association.

In the 22 years Cholly has been with the force, this is the first time the association has not backed an incumbent, he said.

Why now?

“We completely see a lot of unfair practices going on in the city,” he said.

The mudslinging between the candidates and incumbents doesn’t end there. In the past week, several city employees have stepped forward to voice their displeasure about the two challengers.

Beltran retired in 2011 as the city’s assistant finance director and Brunske is a businessman.

Several employees asked at last Monday’s council meeting what action would be taken to protect them from Beltran, who they say was prone to violent outbursts when he was their supervisor.

Then, a police officer raised concerns about the qualifications of Brunske, who owned a property in Indianapolis that has been considered a public nuisance.

Adding to the intrigue, that officer is bucking his union’s endorsement of Brunske.

As the race heats up, the amount of money spent on this election may be unprecedented in this city of 37,000.

In years past, the most candidates had spent on an election was $10,000.

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