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Fighting Words at the Township Council Meeting

At the May 29 meeting, Mayor McCarthy and Councilman Joanow spar over Lion Gate, Mayor's Charity Ball

 

A firestorm of accusations flew across the table at Monday night’s township council meeting, with Mayor Ray McCarthy and Councilman Nick Joanow arguing over the and whether it is fair to use municipal space and employee labor for the Mayor’s Charity Ball. 

The first disagreement occurred after a presentation to the council by landscape architect Tim Delorm of Terra Noble Design, who outlined three options for the 5.7 acres of natural wetland recently purchased by the township, known as the DeSimone property, Lion Gate or Scientific Glass property.

Delorm explained that the three options included a Native Grass Meadow, a Wildflower Meadow and a Butterfly Center, which respectively would cost the township $722,000, $922,000 and $1,043,000. 

“How do we restore the ecology of this site?” said Delorm.  The parcel of land, once a natural forest habitat, was cleared several years ago in preparation for development and is now barren, containing, according to Delorm, less than 1.1% of organic matter. By establishing “all the relationships between the flora and fauna in a healthy ecosystem, we can begin to heal ourselves,” he said.

While other township officials appeared open to several options put forth by Delorm, Joanow was adamant that an idea originally introdued in March -- a passive meadow park that simply filters water and stops water run-off -- was the best option.  Costing $300,000 - $325,000, he said it would benefit the taxpayer rather than line the pockets of the developer.

“In our March meeting, the emphasis suddenly went from a basic concept to a potential embellishment of a million dollar park,” he said, adding, , that building on wetlands is an unsound practice. 

“FEMA supports my thinking, the Army Corps of Engineers supports my thinking and of late, Executive Order #23 [from Governor] Christie, a moratorium on building on floodplains.  I am RIGHT.  I am right because history, facts, tell me I am right .  .  . what I am recommending to this governing body is that we do the bare minimum at this point.”

McCarthy did not disagree with some of Joanow’s points but the discussion became contentious nonetheless.

“I have said from the beginning of this, I don’t care if we just throw grass seed on it,” he said. “I’ve been supportive of this project, to buy this project, from the beginning, Nick.  March 3, 2003.  Long before you were.”

When Joanow asked for a vote, Township Administrator Yoshi Manale reminded him that the presentation was just that, and that a vote was not called for.

In fact, the for the past several months seemed to rise to the surface Monday night, especially during the Lion Gate discussion and later when Joanow suggested the township attorney investigate whether using “municipal employees and municipal facilities to endorse one’s personal charity may result in a lawsuit.”

This last-minute agenda item was in response to multiple phone calls Joanow said he had received from township employees, complaining about their involvement in the Mayor’s Charity Ball.

“You’re telling me that all these people complained that I gave out $20,000?” McCarthy shot back angrily.  “You, sir, are full of it.  You offend me and you offend the people of this community who are in need of help.”

When Joanow asked him to stop, McCarthy continued, “I will not stop because I have no respect for you . . . you’re a liar.”  He added that Joanow would do anything he could to “”

At that point, Councilman Bernard Hamilton entered the fray, saying Joanow’s actions “showed no respect.”

“I find it difficult to believe one person received a phone call and no one else did,” he said.  He criticized Joanow for not discussing the matter privately with the mayor ahead of the meeting, instead of putting it on the agenda at the last minute.  “This is a situation that needs to be talked about between the two of you.  [The council has] more important things to discuss.”

For his part, Township Attorney Brian Aloia said he could not be the arbiter of an ethical inquiry such as the one suggested by Joanow.

“If someone believes there is an ethical or criminal violation, I’m not the person who decides,” he said.

Manale told Joanow, “You can bring your complaints to the ethics board.”

After the meeting Aloia told Patch, “I can do a factual investigation and present facts to the council but an ethics violation must be brought to the local finance board, which is part of the Department of Community Affairs.  Bloomfield doesn’t have a local ethics board so the state provides the service.” 

 

Other news:

Township engineer Paul Lasek requested that the council pay Arterial Designs an additional $20,230.00 for Step 2 of the North Center Streetscape design project.  The previous awards totalled $42,915.00.

“I’m going to have an issue with awarding this without going out to bid,” said Aloia. 

“The quality of work is excellent from this firm, so I recommend we stay with them,” replied Lasek.

All voted yes except Councilman Bernard, who questioned whether the proposed street design would hinder egress of emergency vehicles.

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A “Quality of Life Task Force,” spearheaded by Councilman Michael Venezia, is making progress.  Manned by town volunteers and municipal departments such as police and fire, the Department of Public Works and the Health Department, the watchdog group monitors violations like tall grass and incorrectly installed satellite dishes. 

“I would encourage everyone who has a complaint to give the Health Department a call,” said Venezia.

Manale said there would soon be a portal for anyone who wants to file a complaint online. 

“The township can only afford three code enforcers,” he said, noting that the task force depended on volunteers.  “At the end of the day we have to write a ticket for a violation and we just don’t have the personnel.  That’s the issue.”

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Announcing that the 2011 last week, the mayor pledged to move forward with the Bloomfield Center redevelopment project.

McCarthy said he is not sure whether Heller planned to appeal the Superior Court ruling, despite losing the case on every count.  

After the meeting Aloia told Patch that, should he decide to appeal, Heller must seek a new trial in Appellate Court and later, the Supreme Court.  “Not every case that is appealed is accepted,” he said.

To see a copy of the court document from May 24, 2012, click

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The council unanimously passed a resolution making "Bloomfield USA" the official Bicentennial song.

buster brown May 30, 2012 at 09:29 PM
The people in this town need to open their eyes everyone complains next time it is time to vote everyone who is so concerned should get out there and vote.Mr joanow is a great councilman i only wish he would run for mayor next term.The mayor should be ashamed of himself the way he conducts business.Mayor kinder where are you now.
Pat Gilleran May 30, 2012 at 09:30 PM
It will be interesting to see if the caprtion on the lead photo on this story is true "Angry accusations flew across the table at the May 29th township council meeting, with Mayor McCarthy and Councilman Nick Joanow arguing over two key issues. " Friends who were at the meeting said that the mayor, councilman Hamilton and Councilwoman Dunigan were nasty and called Councilman Joanow names. It doesn;t sound like Councilman Joanow insulted them. What remains to be seen is if the Township Attorney will do his job and advise the town council as to whether the use of township resources by the Mayor for his personal charity is legal. As a taxpayer, I do not want to see my tax dollars used for anyone's personal charity.
Pat Gilleran May 31, 2012 at 12:21 PM
video: http://cvp.telvue.com/player?id=T00304&video=57949&mini=1
Karen Banda May 31, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Let's go to the video tape!
Pork Roll June 01, 2012 at 04:22 AM
The Mayor's self-righteous tirade against Councilman Joanow was a classic example of a "straw man" argument to deflect attention away from the actual issue that Joanow raised by distorting and mis-characterizing what Joanow said. Councilman Joanow did not say that township employees complained about Mayor giving out charity to people in need. What Joanow said was that these employees contacted him to express concern about being tasked to work on the charity ball on the personal say-so of the Mayor. Joanow stated repeatedly that he thought the charity was a "noble cause" but that his concern was with how township resources were used to support it. Some may ask, "What's wrong with the township government supporting local charities?" Probably nothing, as long as it is done in a transparent way, in accordance with clear guidelines, and with the mutual consent of the entire township council. Nobody thinks it would be a good idea to give checkbooks to the mayor and council so that they could each donate taxpayer money to their favorite personal charities, no matter how worth-while the cause may be. So, it should also not be OK for the mayor or any individual councilperson to have the power to appropriate taxpayer resources to their personal charities, regardless of what may have been done in the past. The mayor responded in a shameful manner to a perfectly legitimate question of transparency and accountability in government.

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