Kenilworth mayor resigns, appointed as tax court judge

Councilman Pugliese to step in as acting mayor

KENILWORTH – It has been several years since Gov. Chris Christie nominated Mayor Kathi Fiamingo as a tax court judge, but it took until last week for the Senate Judiciary Committee to sign off on it.

Council President Fred Pugliese will step into the role of acting mayor until November when voters will cast their ballots for a candidate to fill Fiamingo’s 18 remaining months.

According to Councilman Brian Joho, the Kenilworth Republican Party met the night Fiamingo’s appointment was made public and she submitted a letter of resignation to the borough clerk.

The party, which holds a 5 to 1 majority on the governing body, also moved Councilman Scott Klinder into the council president seat and brought back former councilman Kevin Leary to fill Klinder’s seat. Leary also will be throwing his hat back in the ring in November, vying for the voter’s nod once again.

Fiamingo has been borough mayor since 2008, serving on the governing body from 2001 to 2003, elected again to council in 2007. A lifelong Kenilworth resident, Fiamingo attended St. Theresa’s Grammar School and David Brearley Regional High School, graduating in 1972. A graduate of Seton Hall University and Seton Hall Law School, the borough resident obtained her Masters in Law in Taxation from New York University School of Law.

Fiamingo, who will be based in Newark Superior Court, was among three other Union County residents awaiting news that the senate committee had approved their nomination, but it was a long time coming.

Christie originally nominated three candidates for Superior Court vacancies between September 2010 and June 2011, but it was blocked by Democrats on the judiciary committee. At the time Democrat Sen. Ray Lesniak voiced his opinion on the matter, noting that considering the many vacancies on the bench, the positions had to be filled.

“In my 30 years I haven’t seen a situation so extremely difficult and its sad and a real problem,” the senator said in a statement at the time, noting the governor had turned a blind eye toward qualifications and focused on the political involvement of his appointees.
Democrats submitted at least a dozen names to the governor but none were nominated.

Fiamingo, a Republican, previously was nominated as a superior court judge but her nomination was held up along with a half dozen gubernatorial appointments that stalled in the approval process.

Fiamingo is the sister of Frank Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, a critic of Democratic lawmakers targeting gun reform legislation in the state.

Judicial vacancies reached an all time high at the end of 2012, with a bench deficit of 36 percent. While Union County had its problems handling cases, Essex County, the states busiest courthouse, had 12 vacancies out of 44 seats on the bench, while Union County had nine vacancies out of 25.

The judiciary committee also approved Joan Bedrin Murray and Sarah Crowley as administrative law judges, Michael Luther as a workers compensation judge and Dawn Shanahan as a workers compensation judge.
Fiamingo did not return calls before press time.