Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Assemblyman Robert Burns, 89

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Assemblyman Robert Burns, 89

Article excerpt

Robert Burns, a feisty Democrat who earned a place in the Hasbrouck Heights history books and a seat in the Legislature, died Monday at Hackensack University Medical Center, three days before his 90th birthday.

Growing up in a large Jersey City family led by a single mother, Mr. Burns embraced the locally dominant Democratic Party "because the Democrats took care of the poor," said his daughter, Noreen Burns. He was motivated to seek public office by the ascent of a fellow Irish Catholic, President John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Burns, who worked in industrial sales, won a seat on the Hasbrouck Heights Council in 1970, several years after moving to town. He was the first Democrat elected to the governing body. The Record ran an election night photo of Mr. Burns giving the "V for victory" sign and with his feet up, his worn shoes reflecting his door-to-door campaign.

As the rare Democrat among Republicans, Mr. Burns made his presence known. He tangled with Mayor William Imken, asserting that it was a conflict for Imken to enter into a real estate venture with other borough officials. He angered council colleague Rico Pagliei by questioning, at a public meeting, the legality of $129 in expenses Pagliei submitted in connection with attending a firefighters' convention in Atlantic City; Mr. Burns said some of the expenses were incurred by Pagliei's wife.

And Mr. Burns called on Municipal Judge Harry Chandless Jr., a Republican, to step down because Chandless had moved out of town and Mr. Burns said the judge could not properly fulfill his duties. Chandless sued Mr. Burns for slander; the suit was dismissed by a Superior Court judge.

So in-your-face was Mr. Burns that when he won reelection in a squeaker, Imken, the mayor, told The Record: "The one Democrat elected tonight means three more years with a guy who's a living hell. …

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