Running for Hainesport Township Committee Again!

I’m delighted to announce that I’m running for Hainesport Township Committee again. This November, my running mate will be Edie Darnold, a 16-year Hainesport resident and youthful grandmother who has experience working in industry and municipal government. It’s going to be a great campaign, and you can read our bios here.

Thoughts on Running for Hainesport Again

When I reread my announcement from last April, I am actually thrilled at how much Natalie and I managed to accomplish, even though we didn’t win the seats. We kept the Health Benefits issue ($30,000 packages taken by our part time elected officials) in the spotlight to the extent that the Committee had to give up this taxpayer-funded perk to be competitive in this year’s election. We exposed their agenda to force the resignation of Bill Boettcher, and to replace Township Administrator Leo Selb. Furthermore, Natalie came within 50 votes of beating Frank Masciocchi.

I also hope that I have demonstrated my commitment to the people of Hainesport. I never gave up. Not when I was the victim of a smear campaign conducted through a Burlington County Super PAC. Nor when Mayor Tony Porto filed baseless criminal charges against me in an attempt to stop me from running for Hainesport Committee again. I kept going to the meetings and reporting on them for YOU, so you could understand what was going on in our town.

Unlike the Republican candidates, Edie and I aren’t beholden to some highly political Burlington County machine. Our campaign won’t be paid for by corporate donors who think they can control committee votes. In contrast, we are only about Hainesport, and are accountable solely to the people of Hainesport.

I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting even more people than I did last year during the campaign season. Please let me try to earn your vote.

 

Hainesport Township Meeting February 2017

Hainesport Township Meeting February 2017
New Committee Members Gilmore & Masciocchi

Tonight, I saw an unsettling change when I picked up my copy of the agenda at the entrance to the meeting room—two thin stapled pages and not the comfortingly bulky packet I was used to. Copies of draft ordinances and resolutions are no longer being provided as a service to the townsfolk.

Once the meeting proper began one reason for this became abundantly clear. The first ordinance of interest, 2017-1, was described as “An Ordinance Amending the Code of the Township of Hainesport, Eliminating Healthcare Benefits for Members of the Governing Body.” Despite the significance of this ordinance, the only other thing I can tell you about it is that its introduction was proposed by Leila Gilmore, seconded by Frank Masciocchi, and that Mike Fitzpatrick voted against it. So, although it definitely sounds like a step in the right direction (and a victory for Hainesport residents), I can’t tell you when or how it is proposed these benefits will be eliminated. UPDATE: In response to the pressure of this blog and my OPRA request, the township have released the ordinance, and you can find it on the website here. The incumbents will lose their health benefits at the ends of their current terms.

I also can’t tell you much about the two resolutions of interest. (Refer to here for an explanation of the differences between ordinances and resolutions.) Resolution 2017-64-2 (“Resolution Amending Resolution 2016-175-12 Relating to the Appointment of the Municipal Clerk”) and Resolution 2017-67-2 (“Resolution Amending Resolution 2016-172-12, Appointing CFO and Affordable Housing FO.”) have been adopted, and are now a matter of public record. If the Committee has nothing to hide, I should be able to pick copies up tomorrow. If they have, I should be able to OPRA them.

The point is, if the committee don’t discuss these ordinances or resolutions in public, there is now no mechanism for the public to learn, then and there, what is being introduced/adopted. Interestingly, the only Resolution which was discussed was Resolution 2017-63-2 (“Resolution Authorizing Change Order No. 1 for Pickleball Courts Contract.”) Committeeman Fitzpatrick took great pains to point out that this was about an increase to the Pickleball Court construction budget that Leo Selb (former administrator) had allegedly authorized without consulting the township body. The purpose of this public discussion would seem to be to support the Committee’s continued assertions that Leo was a poor administrator: “A lot has gone wrong,” said Fitzpatrick snidely.

Public Comment

Here’s the second unsettling change: before public comment started, Mayor Porto informed the public that the Committee would no longer respond to individuals engaging in comment, in order to prevent unpleasant back and forth, and that questions would be responded to if appropriate at the end of Public Comment. (In practice, this rule was only applied when commenters were known critics of the Committee.)

  • I began this portion of the meeting and my questions were taken down. No comments were made by the committee. My items were:
    • To protest that we were no longer seeing the draft ordinances/resolutions and mention the numbers (given above) of the ones I feel it would have been useful to see
    • To ask if it would be possible to OPRA the ordinances/resolutions ahead of the meeting
    • To enquire about the progress of the search for the new Municipal Administrator/Clerk
  • Jennings Black wants to build a garage, is concerned about pollution on the creek, and wants a tree removed from by the boat ramp. He spoke for at least 7 minutes and both Porto and Dickinson engaged with him and asked questions.
  • Kitty McNelis continued and her points were taken down. No comments were made by the committee. Her items were:
    • She complained that her January 18 OPRA about the current Committee’s health benefits had been deliberately misinterpreted and thus not been answered fully
    • She asked why a second OPRA listed former CFO Dawn Emmons as a part time (<35 hours a week) employee receiving benefits even though she had supposedly retired.
  • Scott Cooper wanted to know why he and several other residents had been removed and blocked from the Hainesport Community Page on which he had never posted or commented. One of the Committeemen observed that it was not an official page.
  • A Boy Scout asked what the proper channels were for requesting lighting for the tennis courts. Porto and Dickinson both responded to him with advice and suggestions.

Comments from the Solicitor

The new solicitor, John Gillespie, revealed that it was his advice to no longer supply the draft ordinances/resolutions, as he felt it was unfair for the public to see them when the committee hadn’t yet and when they also might be changed during discussion. He said you can’t OPRA Ordinances until they are adopted as they are not a matter of public record. He added that Ordinances upcoming for public hearing and adoption would be published in the BCT along with the meeting date. I raised my hand to clarify something, and he said he would not answer questions. On Kitty’s point he said he would revisit the OPRA she was unhappy about.

After the meeting I spoke to Mr. Gillespie, observing that the new Public Comment format stifles essential discussion because answers generate further questions, which is why I had raised my hand. I wanted to request that Ordinances should be available to the public at their Public Hearing, both in the printed agenda for that night and on the one uploaded to the website. He made a note of my points.

Comments from the Committee

  • Leila Gilmore thanked Public Works for various good things and said it was nice to see the Scouts
  • Frank Masciocchi mentioned Natalie Schneider’s work in helping to get the health benefits eliminated and said it showed great things about Hainesport’s young people
  • Mick Dickinson agreed that Public Works do a great job
  • Mike Fitzpatrick had nothing to add
  • Mayor Porto confirmed that the shoes from Project Shoebox do indeed go to the correct charity, and then stated that as of this evening, thanks to Resolution 2017-67-2 (one of the ones it would have been really useful to see), Dawn Emmons would no longer be receiving health benefits. He added that they had received lots of great resumes for the Administrator/Clerk position and that a special meeting would be called soon for interviews.

Editorial

Disclaimer: this portion of the blog post contains speculation about the township committee’s motives and intents. Speculation is a legitimate part of political discourse (watch Fox News if you don’t believe me) and is not akin to rumor-mongering, which is the sharing of facts with no evidence that they are true.

Firstly, every change that has been made to Public Comment in recent years has been designed to silence dissent and reduce the level of accountability of the Committee to Hainesport residents. Where is our forum now for actual debate with the Committee? When he was Mayor, Dickinson talked about a Town Hall, in which residents would (presumably) be able to interact with the committee in a question and answer format. Let’s put that back on the table. Don’t forget, Hainesport: your elected officials work for you!

Next, let’s consider the way in which former Administrator Leo Selb had his job carved up to the point where he left for alternative employment. I put it to you that Resolution 2017-64-2, which was prefaced by Mayor Porto saying it was “on the advice of counsel,” needed to be passed because something wasn’t quite right about how that was done. Similarly, Dawn Emmons was still being paid benefits because there was something not quite right about how THAT transition was effected, and it took Resolution 2017-67-2 (also “on the advice of counsel”) to correct it. All of this continues to suggest the Committee always planned to remove Leo, as I have frequently suggested. It is easier for the committee to get away with stuff now we no longer see the draft Ordinances/Resolutions.

Finally, WTF Hainesport? Are we a plutocracy now? What happened to democracy, accountability, and transparency? I note that Berkeley Heights, NJ recently introduced their version of a Sunshine Act to try and get their residents a little more transparency.

Do we really need to do something similar in Hainesport, and if so, why?

How What West Chester Did to Kim Bridgford Got Me into Politics

what west chester did to kim bridgford
The Poetry Center, West Chester University

Over the course of my campaign and its aftermath, particularly in the light of what my Republican opponents did (and continue to do) to me, many people have asked me why I decided to run for office. I typically answer that I am a crusader for truth, transparency, and justice, which begs the question of what turned me into that crusader. The answer to this question is, I became a crusader because of what West Chester did to Kim Bridgford.

After Kim became director of the West Chester Poetry Center and Conference in 2010, she asked me to take over the daily running of the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project. This put us into frequent correspondence, and we became friends. Hence I was among the first to learn when, on September 15th 2014, she was removed from her position, asked to collect her things and leave the Poetry Center (which she was thereafter barred from entering) and reassigned to full time teaching.

I became one of Kim’s most vocal defenders as the West Chester administration and its advocates conspired to give the impression that her reassignment was her fault for being a poor fundraiser (she wasn’t), or perhaps for moving the Poetry Conference too far from its original mission (She was employed to increase diversity and broaden the conference’s appeal.)

During my defense of Kim, my arguments were dismissed as lies, and I was not only regularly told to be quiet, but also frequently belittled and insulted online, mostly by men. It was great practice for facing down the three male incumbent Republican members of Hainesport Township Committee!

The real reason for Kim’s reassignment was that she had discovered financial irregularities under her predecessor as Director, Mike Peich, and when she brought those to the attention of the administrators, they chose to remove her and stage a cover up instead of investigating. Every time I suggested this, however, I was castigated for sullying the reputation of Mike Peich without being able to verify my claims. Unfortunately, Kim was at that time unable to speak publicly about the issues.

Kim and I went on (along with original Executive Board Members Natalie Gerber, Cherise Pollard, and Kat Gilbert) to create and run Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference, now in its third successful year. The West Chester Poetry Conference came back under the Directorship of Sam Gwynn after taking a year’s hiatus in 2015, and an uneasy truce has prevailed at West Chester.

But recently West Chester added insult to injury by engaging Baker Tilly, a firm of accountants, to conduct a financial assessment of the Poetry Center (which Kim’s supporters had demanded), but only covering the years of Kim’s tenure as Director. This financial review, while finding no fault, contains damaging and untrue allegations which Kim has now been forced to refute legally and publicly. The letter from Kim’s lawyer states this:

For 16 years, Prof. Peich directed the center with no accountability, no reporting, and no institutional oversight whatsoever. During that time he drained the six-figure Ahmanson Fund, without notifying any authority, and without being called upon to report his activities.

It concludes:

Prof. Peich’s 16-year wasting spree had been enabled by a passive university and foundation. Dr. Bridgford stepped into a situation not of her own making and did her best to rectify it….The report is unfair to her and protective of those who should be held accountable.

This letter has today been circulated among the faculty of the English department at West Chester University, and finally I am in a position to support what I have been saying all along about the events of September 2014. Truth, transparency and justice are served.

Meanwhile my fight against West Chester exposed many truths I had been ignoring for too long: that many men still attempt to dominate and belittle women, that power corrupts, that those in power will do anything to conceal inconvenient truths, and that it is always the little guy who is exploited. With my social conscience newly awoken, I looked around and I saw examples of this happening very close to home.

And that is why I ran for Hainesport Township Committee.

Hainesport Township Government 101

Hainesport Township GovernmentThe Hainesport Township Website has this to say about our form of government:

Hainesport is governed by the Township Committee form of government. This is comprised of five officials elected by the residents to serve three year staggered terms. The elected members will select a chairperson who will be known as the “Mayor of the Township.”

With no mention of Republican or Democrat anywhere on the website, Hainesport residents could be forgiven for believing, as Committeeman Fitzpatrick is fond of saying, that party politics is irrelevant at a local level. However, he is mistaken.

Current Hainesport Township Committee

The three-year staggered terms currently expire as follows:

Mayor Porto (R) & Committeeman Dickinson (R): 12/31/2017
Committeeman Fitzpatrick (R): 12/31/2018
Deputy Mayor Masciocchi (R) & Committeewoman Gilmore (R): 12/31/2019

There are no term limits (although the Democrats would like to introduce a three term limit). Dickinson & Fitzpatrick are currently serving their third terms. Porto is on his third full term having also served a partial term prior to that.

How Do the Committee Govern?

It’s important to note that being an elected official on Hainesport Township Committee is a part time job. Indeed, Fitzpatrick and Porto both have full time jobs in local government elsewhere (Township Administrator, Mansfield, and Tax Administrator, Hunterdon County, respectively.)

Therefore, the day to day administration of Hainesport is carried out by a hardworking and well-respected paid staff (full and part-time), led by the Township Adminstrator. Until January 12th 2017 the Hainesport Township Administrator was Leo Selb. As of April, the role has been taken by Paula Kosko.

The most visible role of the Committee is at the monthly Township Meetings, during which the business of the Township is conducted by means of Resolutions and Ordinances on which the committee vote. The material for the meetings is prepared by the Municipal Clerk. Until December 14th 2016 the Hainesport Municipal Clerk was Leo Selb (He was a joint Administrator/Clerk), but at the township meeting on December 13th he was removed from that position and the role was given part-time to Amy Cosnoski, the full time Clerk in Pemberton. Once Paula Kosko has qualified as Clerk, the roles of Administrator and Clerk will be recombined.

As explained on USlegal.com, “a resolution deals with matters of a special or temporary character and an ordinance prescribes some permanent rule of conduct or government to continue in force until the ordinance is repealed.” For example, at the January meeting, Mayor Tony Porto was appointed by resolution (effective for 1 year) whereas it took an Ordinance in December 2014,  (Ordinance 2014-10-11) to increase the cost of a Dog License in Hainesport to $15 for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the most influential role of the Committee is in the selection of the individuals who either work as paid staff for the township, or are appointed by resolution as the Township Professionals on an annual basis. And this is where Party Politics comes in.

The Hainesport Democrat & Republican Committees

When Hainesport voted in the last township election, they had a choice between 4 candidates: Schneider & Evans (D) and Gilmore & Masciocchi (R). (You could of course vote for 1 R and 1 D, but most people don’t.) Schneider & Evans were supported by the Hainesport Democrat Committee, while Gilmore & Masciocchi were supported by the Hainesport Republican Committee.

In my experience of the Democrat side of things, the chair of the Township party committee is expected to attend the County committee meetings, which would mean that Mayor Porto would be an active member of the Burlington County Republican Committee, whose Chairman is Bill Layton.

What Do the Burlington County Republicans Have to Do With Hainesport?

  • They funded the smear campaign against me, Anna Evans, which some experts have estimated cost ~$8000
  • They provided campaign literature supporting Gilmore & Masciocchi along with the Burlington County GOP candidates
  • They pushed the Hainesport Committee to get rid of Administrator/Clerk Leo Selb, who was seen as too friendly to Hainesport Democrats and not sufficiently supportive of the Republican agenda

How Else Do Party Politics Influence Hainesport Township Government?

  • Hainesport township professionals are typically Republican and/or campaign donors
  • Appointees to e.g. the Joint Use Planning Board are expected to support preferred Republican candidates
    • Recently the Chair of the JUPB was not reappointed without warning (despite 6 years exemplary service) due to his support of non-preferred candidates.
  • Democrats and their supporters are seen as ‘troublemakers’ and less deserving of participation in community activities
    • Mayor Porto recently ‘purged’ his Hainesport Community Page on Facebook of all members known to be associates of mine.

So, party politics is more important than you thought, isn’t it? Please bear this in mind next November when you are deciding whether to vote Porto (R) & Dickinson (R) in for their FOURTH full terms, or whether to vote for the as of yet unannounced Democrat candidates.

Tony Porto’s Violation of Hainesport’s Employee Handbook

Guest post by Deborah Douglas Plaia

Tony Porto's ViolationAlthough I couldn’t make Tuesday’s township meeting, because I had a trial that I was preparing for, I have read Anna Evans’s account of the meeting, and also the subsequent discussion on Hainesport Happenings, and feel compelled to address the legal issues that have arisen with respect to Tony Porto’s posting of the Kermit meme last June.

The residents of Hainesport should read the Hainesport Township Employee Handbook.  The handbook specifically prohibits sexual harassment and states: “The Township expects all employees, Township Officials, Department Heads, supervisors, to treat other individuals including other employees, volunteers, guests, business invitee, vendors, suppliers, contractors, other non-employees and others  not directly connected with the Township  (collectively referred to as “non-employes”) with respect and courtesy,  both in their speech and in their conduct.”

It goes on to state:

Tony Porto's Violation“THIS POLICY APPLIES TO ALL INCIDENTS OF UNLAWFUL HARASSMENT OR DISCRIMINATION INCLUDING INSTANCES WHICH OCCUR OFF PREMISES OR OFF-HOURS. ALSO, IT DOES NOT MATTER WHETHER IMPROPER CONDUCT TAKES PLACE ON OR OFF TOWNSHIP PREMISES OR BEFORE OR AFTER WORK HOURS SINCE. WHILE THE CONDUCT MAY NOT BE UNLAWFUL, THE EMPLOYEES BEHAVIOR NEGATIVELY REFLECTS UPON THE TOWNSHIP.”  

The Handbook explains that unlawful discrimination or harassment includes, but is not limited to comments, jokes, insults, slurs, derogatory statements, drawings, pictures or cartoons, innuendos, etc. Tony Porto’s violation, whether it was on his private Facebook page, in his home or not, was sexual harassment and not only in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and Federal law, it violates Hainesport Township’s own employee policy handbook. Every resident, male and female should be outraged. It exposes the Township to lawsuits. 

Where sexual harassment has occurred, the law REQUIRES management to take prompt and adequate remedial action. Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, where upper management, in this case, the Mayor, knows about an alleged sexual harassment and fails to take prompt and effective measures to stop harassment, the employer (in this case, Hainesport) may be found liable for sexual harassment.

Deborah Douglas Plaia has lived in Hainesport since 2004, but her family moved to Mount Holly in 1966.  Prior to becoming an attorney, she worked in the insurance claims industry. In her last position, she was a field examiner with 4 regional reporting to her on their catastrophic claims -Woodland Hills, Ca, Denver, CO, Des Moines, IA and Raleigh, NC. During that period of time—mid-1990s—there was an explosion of claims involving sexual harassment and discrimination. Thus. she has had exposure to that area of the law for over 20 years.  In 1998, she graduated Rutgers School of law and became licensed to practice.  Her areas of practice include construction defects, employment law, workers compensation, personal injury and insurance coverage matters.

January Hainesport Reorganization and Township Meeting

January Hainesport Reorganization
Frank Masciocchi takes the oath, administered by new Clerk Amy Cosnoski, witnessed by his daughter


After the new Committee members had taken their oaths of office, the first resolutions of the new year were to appoint Tony Porto as Mayor (nominated by Mike Fitzpatrick or Frank Masciocchi—there is some discussion as to which it was—and seconded by Leila Gilmore), and Frank Masciocchi as Deputy Mayor (nominated by Mike Fitzpatrick and seconded by Mick Dickinson).

Appointment of Liaison & Deputy Committee Persons

Public Safety – Liaison – Dickinson
Public Safety – Deputy – Fitzpatrick

Construction/Code Enforcement – Liaison – Masciocchi
Construction/Code Enforcement – Deputy – Gilmore

Administration – Liaison – Porto
Administration – Deputy – Masciocchi

Finance – Liaison – Porto
Finance – Deputy – Fitzpatrick

Public Works – Liaison – Gilmore
Public Works – Deputy – Masciocchi

Economic Development – Liaison – Porto
Economic Development – Deputy – Gilmore

Hainesport Education Foundation – Liaison – Fitzpatrick

Next Mayor Porto appointed Senior Citizens Committee (2) – Liaison – Leila Gilmore and Deputy – Frank Masciocchi.

A raft of annual resolutions followed. One key point to note is that the regular Township Meeting time has been changed to 7 p.m. for all future township meetings.

Other Township Appointments at January Hainesport Reorganization

Appointment of Township Planner – Ragan Design Group

Appointment of Township Solicitor – John Gillespie. (Note: Ted Costa has held this appointment for many years. However, since Tony Porto staged a coup and ousted him as Hainesport Republican Committee Chairman, the relationship reportedly became strained.)

Appointment of Township Bond Counsel – Capehart & Scatchard

Appointment of Township Auditor – Bowman & Co.

Appointment of Township Engineer – Alaimo Engineering

Appointment of Council on Affordable Housing Special Counsel – Capehart & Scatchard

Appoint Risk Management Consultant – T.C. Irons

Appoint Employment Practices Liability Attorney – Hermando Richios (sp?)

Resolution Authorizing the Appointment of Conflict Counsel for 2017 – Capehart & Scatchard

Appoint Members of Joint Land Use Board Class I – Mayor Designate – Tony Porto
Class II – Official of Municipality – Vacancy

Joint Land Use Board Governing Body Class III – Committee Member – Leila Gilmore

Joint Land Use Board Class IV – 4 year term expiring 12/31/2018- Gerry Clauss
Class IV – 4 year term expiring 12/31/2020- H. Krollfeifer

Class IV – Alternate #1, 3, 4 #1 2 year term expiring 12/31/2017 – Irene Baggio
#3 2 year term expiring 12/31/2018 – Vacancy
#4 2 year term expiring 12/31/2018 – Vacancy

Environmental Commission – 3 year term expiring 12/31/2019 – Paula Uhland

Appoint Joint Insurance Fund Commissioner – Alternate Fund Commissioner – Donna Kilburn
Claims Coordinator – Donna Kilburn
Safety Coordinator – Vacancy

Appointment to Recreation Commission 3 year term expiring 12/31/2019 – Paula Tiver, Leila Gilmore

Resolution Appointing a Public Agency Compliance Officer – Amy Cosnoski

Resolution Awarding a Contract for Animal Control to- NJ Animal Control

Resolution Appointing Registrar 3 year term expiring 12/31/2019 – Paula Tiver

Resolution Appointing Deputy Registrar 3 year term expiring 12/31/2019 – Sharon A. Deviney

Leo Selb Resignation Letter

A motion was introduced to include correspondence from Leo Selb. The letter gives two weeks notice such that his last day will be Sunday January 15th. Note: this conflicts with earlier information received that Leo’s last day was to be March 31st. Another source stated to me later that evening that Leo Selb has now taken on the Township Administrator role in a larger New Jersey township, although this is at present unconfirmed. This conflicts with reports that Mike Fitzpatrick has been falsely claiming Leo Selb’s “retirement” plans were the reason for the Clerk/Administrator role split. I will confirm as and when I receive more information.

UPDATE: Leo Selb has accepted a full time job as Municipal Clerk in Washington Township, Gloucester County, a town of 48,000 people. He was offered the job in Washington AFTER the role of Hainesport Municipal Clerk was split from Township Administrator and given to Pemberton Clerk and Vice President of the Burlington County Clerks Association Amy Cosnoski. On behalf of all of the citizens of Hainesport who have benefited from Leo’s cheerful and excellent service, I congratulate him and wish him well.

Public Comment 1

Kitty McNelis — congratulated Gilmore & Masciocchi. Criticized the choice of Tony Porto as Mayor after he posted the sexist Kermit meme on Facebook. She had the poster sized version of the meme with her and showed it, then read it to the audience. A man in the audience laughed loudly and they exchanged words.

Anna Evans — Note: Tony acknowledged my desire to speak by calling me “the lady with the glasses.” I began by pointing out the absurdity of this, then congratulated Gilmore & Masciocchi. I added my voice to the criticism of rewarding Tony Porto’s behavior, both with respect to the meme, but also on election day, by making him Mayor. Some audience members have reported that the man in the audience who laughed at the meme said “asshole” under his breath after I spoke. The man then left loudly. UPDATE: Attorney Deborah Douglas Plaia has kindly provided a guest blog post summarizing the legal argument as to why the Kermit meme was in contravention of the Hainesport Employee Handbook, which should have led to punitive action by the then Mayor against Porto and certainly NOT to his elevation to the next Mayor.

Kathy Parker — confirmed that all township meetings would henceforth be at 7 p.m. and clarified some other issues with the appointments.

Irene Baggio — confirmed her 2 year term and expressed that she would like to see the Committee supported in 2017.

Committee Comment 1

All 5 spoke. The new committeemen thanked voters and their families. Frank Masciocchi complimented Natalie Schneider for getting involved as a younger person. Mike Fitzpatrick said you couldn’t pay him to sit in Tony’s seat (which is strange because he has been paid to be Mayor in a previous term?). Tony Porto thanked the committee and community for placing their trust in him.

Regular Township Meeting Business

After a short adjournment the regular township meeting was reconvened, with a very short agenda. George Myers was confirmed as part-time Fire Official with a salary of $17,500. The 2017 temporary budget was established.

Public Comment/Committee Comment 2

Kitty McNelis — expressed concern that Hainesport was effectively paying Amy Cosnoski $76 per hour for performing the Clerk’s duties in just 4 hours per week. She said she couldn’t understand how the demands of the position could have changed so much that this was possible.

Ginny Cliver — Clarified what was happening with the shoebox recycling. Also expressed surprise at the Clerk’s hours/remuneration.

As Ginny was walking back to her seat, Committeeman Fitzpatrick asked contemptuously what she didn’t understand about salary? Said, “It just blows me away, the ignorance,” followed by “I’ll expect to see that on the blog.”

The other four committee members did not add much to their previous commentary but Mike Fitzpatrick wasn’t done.

He said that we kept talking about moving Hainesport forward but were we really moving forward? He indicated Amy Cosnoski and called her a young lady who had stepped up to help out (which is odd because I thought that she had applied for the Clerk’s job in competition with Leo Selb reapplying for it, and that the Committee selected her over Leo.) Apparently oblivious to the irony, he called the negativity in the town deplorable and stated that he was embarrassed at the way “you people” act. Finally, he looked straight at me and said, “You’re a loser, blog that.”

So I have.

December Hainesport Township Meeting

December Hainesport Township MeetingDisclaimer: this blog post contains speculation about the township committee’s motives and intents. Speculation is a legitimate part of political discourse, and is not akin to rumor-mongering, which is the sharing of facts with no evidence that they are true.

As usual, this post will restrict itself to agenda items which I believe are of general interest to the people of Hainesport. Regular township business continued as normal.

The committee held a moment of silence for former Hainesport Mayor and Democrat Party Deputy Chairman, Ray Storck, who passed away earlier this week.

Firstly, the results of the Hainesport Calendar Contest were announced, and many of the children were present with their parents to receive their award certificates from Mayor Dickinson. Prizes ranged from $25 to $50, with the outright winner, Olivia Fields, receiving $100. Her artwork will be printed on a poster circulated to local businesses.

Mayor Dickinson also announced the purchase of a new ambulance, which was available outside for inspection. The EMT crew were present, and received a round of applause for their service.

Resolution 2016-173-12, Appointing CFO & Affordable Housing Finance Officer

December Hainesport Township MeetingJoanna Mustafa was appointed to this part time position, which shall have a combined average of 30 hours a month, for a total of $23, 000 per year and no benefits. This resolution (see right) was formulated in the expected manner. Joanna is currently named as the CFO/Assistant Business Administrator for Ewing Township. It is unclear if she will work both positions simultaneously. Hainesport’s previous CFO, Dawn Emmons, who was full time and received a salary of $39,000 plus health benefits, resigned to spend more time in Florida, where she had a house and accountancy practice. No justification has been given for the downgrading of the CFO job to part time, but it is my opinion that the job should never have been full time to begin with.

Resolution 2016-175-12, Appointment of Municipal Clerk For the Township of Hainesport

This resolution appointing Amy Cosnoski (currently named as Township Clerk for Pemberton Township) was tabled for discussion in executive session. You will note several curious things about the resolution, seen right.December Hainesport Township Meeting

  1. The font and layout of the resolution are different from the township norms—Arial instead of Times New Roman and the approval box is set up with the committee names in alphabetical order and listed Last, First. It’s as though it was lifted straight from an email received from someone like a lawyer.
  2. The resolution says nothing about the hours, wages or benefits assigned to the position.
  3. Cosnoski’s appointment begins today, December 14th, rather than, as would be more logical, January 1st 2017. This means that, as of the December Hainesport Township Meeting, Leo Selb is no longer your Municipal Clerk. (He is still Township Administrator, for now.)
  4. Cosnoski’s term runs until “her successor is duly appointed and qualified.”

Public Comment

Anna Evans – I drew attention to Ms. Cosnoski’s current appointment in Pemberton and asked if she was resigning or if she would be working both jobs simultaneously. If the latter, I asked how this would possibly be more efficient than Leo Selb working the Clerk’s job alongside his full time position as Administrator. Mayor Dickinson said they would be discussing this in Executive Session.

Ginny Cliver – asked about the hours and wages of the CFO position and clarified that Joanna Mustafa was, indeed, a replacement for Dawn Emmons.

Leila Gilmore – noticed a $30 discrepancy in the price of a truck Hainesport is buying, which was listed twice at $40, 487 and once at $40, 457. The former is correct. She also thanked the township for the children’s Christmas party.

Kitty McNelis – clarified the hours and wages of the new Municipal Clerk.

Pat Macken – drew everyone’s attention to the fact that Ms. Cosnoski’s term is until “her successor is duly appointed and qualified” and asked who this successor might be, as the wording suggested they had someone in mind. She asked why the hours and wages weren’t on the Resolution where we could see them. She asked why everything hadn’t been set up before tonight. She also asked if this was political retaliation for Leo having Tony Porto removed from the township building on Election Day. Mayor Dickinson did not answer.

Executive Session & After

The committee went into executive session around 8.25 p.m. and came out at 9.10 p.m. whereupon with no further discussion Tony Porto moved to approve Resolution 2016-175-12 and Fitzpatrick seconded the motion. Dickinson and Clauss voted yes to the motion, and Committeeman Krollfeifer abstained. The public received no additional information about the new Municipal Clerk position.

Hainesport friends, I speculated in August as to the committee’s agenda in getting rid of Bill Boettcher by means of Ordinance 2016-9-6:

I set this out there now. If Leo Selb is put on 90 days notice at any time between now and January 1st 2017, this will constitute hard evidence that this was the Porto-Fitzpatrick-Dickinson plan with Ordinance 2016-9-6 all along. Hainesport should protest this strongly and refuse to re-elect any of the 3 incumbent committee men if they demonstrate such misuse of political power.

I also warned you that neither Leila Gilmore nor Frank Masciocchi would stand up against the incumbents, Dickinson, Porto and Fitzpatrick.

I further opine that the committee does not have Hainesport’s best interests at heart in making these changes to your township administration, but is acting to pursue a grudge against Leo because he is insufficiently partisan toward the Republican committee, and possibly because they have a long term plan to put someone else in the Administrator’s job as a patronage position. The evidence is all there before you.

November Hainesport Township Meeting

Here is the report from the November Hainesport Township Meeting. As always, it is not a complete transcript, but simply a summary of the issues which were covered that I believe will be of most interest to the people of Hainesport.
November Hainesport Township MeetingAfter the meeting was opened Trooper Storm gave his report, summarizing the kinds of incidents the NJSP have been called to over the last 30 days. He emphasized that if Hainesport residents have issues, they should call the Bordentown based State Police direct on 609 298 1171, as that will be the best way of accessing state resources.

Discussion/Presentation

  • Speed Humps/Stop Signs: the importance of introducing some form of speed impediment in several areas throughout Hainesport was discussed. Although the audience was not able to see the township maps for the proposed sites, we were informed that there were 5 potential speed hump sites, each of which would cost $8500, while stop signs could be erected for a total of $8000. The committee is considering this.
  • 2016 Park Grant: several possibilities were put forward for this Burlington County grant, which can total as much as $250k. The deadline to apply is Dec 1. The committee plans to cost these suggestions further and apply for the grant.
    • A dog park with separate areas for <30 lb dogs and >30 lb dogs with a gate system was suggested but not costed. Objections were raised about possible township liabilities because of aggressive dog behavior
    • Improvements to Rancocas Park were suggested, including replacing the mulch with a softer surface ($80k), erecting a pavilion ($25k) and creating a sidewalk between the boat ramp and Flo’s (not costed that I heard.)
    • The construction of an additional pump station and well in the municipal park area was suggested for about $50k total.
  • 2016 Community Development Block Grant: Township Administrator Leo Selb explained that this is for roads in low or moderate income areas and the proposed target area is Washington and Albert Streets where there is not currently a clear path on either side. Committeewoman elect Leila Gilmore asked if the grant would address the issue with the side of Albert St that is crooked and has the stop sign, but was told it was more cost-effective to make a new sidewalk on the other side than to fix the crooked one. A resident complained about the lack of sidewalk outside the municipal building and was told that could not be addressed by this grant but would be addressed separately.
  • Leaf Pick Up: Put the leaves out by the sidewalk and they will be picked up. This will run a little past Thanksgiving this year because of the warm weather/late leaf fall. After that the leaves will need to be bagged.

Public Comment

Only one resident chose to stand up during Public Comment tonight and that was long term Hainesport resident Ginny Cliver. She wanted to ask the three incumbent committee members why they felt they were each entitled to $30k of health benefits on their $5k salary. Mayor Dickinson reminded her several times that this was Public Comment not Questions and the Committee did not have to answer. Ms. Cliver asked if the incumbents were ashamed, and added that if they didn’t have the courtesy to answer her question they owed the township residents an apology. She asked the Committee if they would be willing to help out with her supplementary Medicare benefits and was told they did not have to answer. She ended by telling the Committee that she understood there was a record number of children at Hainesport School receiving free lunches and asked them how they managed to sleep, knowing that. Mayor Dickinson repeated that they did not have to answer questions.

Comments from the Committee

Deputy Mayor Porto thanked Hainesport residents for participating in the election.

Committeeman Fitzpatrick agreed, then congratulated Leila Gilmore and Frank Masciocchi (who did not attend the meeting) for winning the election, and for running a clean campaign unlike the Great Divider (Me) who continually bashed people on Hainesport Happenings. There was some grumbling in the audience from people who saw this differently.

Mayor Dickinson said the Committee was planning a Town Hall meeting to talk frankly about moving the town forward, and also thanked the poll workers for getting up so early.

So there you have it, Hainesport. I was still in the trenches for you at the November Hainesport Township Meeting, even though I respect your (close-margined) choice to pick my Republican opponents this election for the Committee positions. This is how you know that I am 100% about Hainesport, not about myself.

UPDATE: It has been explained to me that Frank Masciocchi had to miss Monday’s meeting because of his commitments as an Adjunct Professor. Being an Adjunct Professor myself, I’m prepared to give him a pass on that. Although he does not get a pass on his silence and utter failure to denounce the smear campaign which distorted my two Adjunct Professor roles into something he knew they were not, I have decided to forgive him and try to move on.

How the Smear Campaign Worked

How the smear campaign workedMake no mistake that the glossy 4 mailer smear campaign run against me 2 weeks ago DID work. It suppressed the vote for me compared with my running mate Natalie by 60 or so votes. But this post isn’t about handwringing. It’s about educating people as to how these things operate so they have better resistance to this tactic in future.

The mailers were supposedly paid for by a Super PAC called “Preserving Our Communities for the Future.” Super PACs have to file a Political Committee Registration statement giving a purpose, an address and the Treasurer’s name, so when the first mailer appeared I naturally searched the database to see if I could find this Super PAC, but I couldn’t. It was eventually found by another Democrat candidate, who was being attacked similarly in another town, under a subtly different name, “Preserving Our Communities for Tomorrow.” {Note: using a different name on the mailers is an election violation, and I am in the process of filing a complaint.)

The Treasurer for “Preserving Our Communities for Tomorrow” is Joseph Lisnak, the Tax Administrator for Burlington County. County positions like the Tax Administrator’s job are often described as “patronage” jobs, because they are appointed by the elected officials, who frequently make partisan choices. Joseph Lisnak, whose Riverton house was in foreclosure 2 years ago, is family friends with Bill Layton, the Chairman of the Burlington County Republican Committee. His Super PAC attacked only Democrat candidates in Burlington County townships (Moorestown, Chesterfield, Hainesport, and we later discovered, Eastampton). I think it is clear that the Burlington County Committee directed and funded the attacks. But why Hainesport? I got the second biggest attack—Kati Bonelli-Angelini, in Moorestown got 5 smear mailers—but I’m in the smallest town. Hainesport is hardly strategic. I can only assume that someone had a personal grudge against me.

The expensive mailers (large and glossy) are professionally designed by outfits like Chris Russell Consulting. You will see some of the dog whistle code words and idiosyncrasies from my mailers on the mailers in their portfolio. Let’s now examine the distortions that the mailers contained.

Anna Evans, Liberal PoliticianHow the smear campaign worked

I am many things: I am a mom, a wife, a published poet, an editor, an educator, and what my husband fondly calls “Vice-President of Everything Else” for our small business, Global Bridge LLC, run out of our Hainesport home. I ran for political office for the first time this election season, and to that extent I am a politician. My views are somewhat left of center, but the term “liberal politician” implies a career operative whose agenda is driven by social issues. My agenda for Hainesport was transparency and accountability.

Smear 1: Double-Dip into Taxpayer Funds

I laughed out loud when I saw this. I am an Adjunct Professor who teaches at two state schools. This semester I am teaching one class at Stockton University for $5000, and one at Rowan at BCC for $2000. My “double-dipping” will net me a massive $7000. There are several other ironies here:

  1. We have two genuine “double-dippers” on the current committee. Both take full time salaries from state jobs elsewhere but get their health benefits paid for out of Hainesport’s property taxes. Just those health benefits alone are worth twice what I will earn this year from teaching, which I do for love.
  2. Committeeman Elect Frank Masciocchi is also an Adjunct Professor. I am beyond appalled that he did not come forward to disavow this ridiculous smear as soon as he saw it.

Smear 2: Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Sunny LA

Last Spring I applied for the Adjunct Opportunity Fund at Stockton, and was awarded $500 to partially defray the cost of my trip to the AWP Writers Conference in LA (total cost $1331). At the conference I worked a Book Fair table 9-5 most days. To put this into perspective, consider what it would cost to host someone in one of the corporate boxes at a single Eagles game.

Smear 3: Supports Part-Time Elected Officials Getting Lifetime Taxpayer-Funded Healthcare Benefits

This one is complicated, which immediately informs you that someone from our township was co-ordinating with Lisnak/Layton, who would simply not have had the local knowledge to apply this smear.

If you go back and read my blog entries for June and July you will get a clearer idea of the current committee’s agenda. They wanted Bill Boettcher out, and they introduced an ordinance to end lifetime benefits for elected officials, knowing it would make him resign in order to keep his benefits. I was specifically against this ordinance, although in general I am against health benefits for any part time elected officials. The accusation that the Democrats support lifetime benefits for part-time officials was first made by Deputy Mayor Porto and is in the Township Meeting Minutes for July.

How the Smear Campaign Worked

Of course, anyone who knows me and understands township politics immediately saw how ridiculous these accusations were, but not everyone in Hainesport does know me. People stood in the polling booth and voted for Natalie but chose a Republican as a second choice because they believed these ridiculous lies about me. That hurts. Coming home from my teaching jobs to find yet another glossy mailer full of lies in my mailbox also hurt. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Meanwhile, my opponents, despite never making a public disavowal of the smear campaign, were able to claim that they ran the “clean” campaign, because their names were not on the mailers.

That’s how my opposition operates. I’m sure you’ve seen attack comments on my Facebook feed by people like, most recently, Simcha Rosen. I clickbaited this profile into revealing its IP address and discovered it is using proxy servers to disguise its location, and another investigative journalist has since traced those proxies to Burlington County.

But while my opponents hide their attacks in Super PACs and fake profiles, my agenda has always been transparency and accountability. I will continue to tell Hainesport the truth, and I hope that next time people will be more able to see through the lies.

Healing Hainesport After the Election

Healing Hainesport After the ElectionIt has often struck me, throughout the course of this campaign, that what is happening in Hainesport is a microscopic mirror of what is happening on a national scale. This is possibly true of all township elections everywhere, although perhaps it is more true here because I am a Democrat woman running against a powerful Republican machine, who has been accused of lying, and who has had lies told about her, in turn. Now, the election is almost upon us, and it is time to consider, on both a local and national scale, how we will heal our communities once it is over.

This was brought home to me last night when I read a comment by one of our opponents’ supporters on Hainesport Happenings:

Natalie Schneider, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Suppose by some miraculous chance you win. Then what? Do you think you could honestly work side by side with the current committee. How could you even have the courage to look them in the face after all the lies and false accusations? How would you handle going into executive session without your mommy and daddy being there to hold your hand??

When I saw this my immediate reaction was to leap in and defend my running mate, but it was late and that was not the right place, so I determined instead to write this blog entry.

I did not know Natalie personally until this April, but ever since then I have been impressed by her intelligence, drive, enthusiasm and resilience. It is true that she is 25 and lives at home with her parents. Tony Porto was 26 and lived at home with his parents when he was elected, and while that has not necessarily worked out well for Hainesport, I don’t think anyone criticized him then for his age or inexperience.

I have also got to know Natalie’s parents, Diana & Rodger Schneider, both former Republicans and good people who would certainly never tear down anyone’s lawn sign! They have worked tirelessly as campaign volunteers, but they are not the force behind Natalie’s ideas or ethics, nor does she need them to hold her hand. In fact, at times when the relentless negativity and lies have got me down, it is Natalie who has offered me her hand to hold.

Healing Hainesport After the Election If We Win

I don’t know how many people in Hainesport know this, but my family has been friends with the Fitzpatricks and the Dickinsons for a long time. My daughter was best friends with Mike Fitzpatrick’s daughter in pre-school, and she then went on to take dance classes at Edge Dance Center, like many of our daughters. You also would not know that throughout the campaign I have had several civil, private conversations with both Mick Dickinson and Mike Fitzpatrick.

I am confident that Natalie and I can work with Mayor Dickinson and Committeeman Fitzpatrick if we are elected, and I am optimistic that Mayor Dickinson can control any residual negativity from the third incumbent.

I have also observed, at the township meetings I have attended since March, that the rowdiness is confined to only a few points in the meeting–controversial ordinances and public comment. The “meat & potatoes” business of the township—fire ordinances, contracts, construction, proclamations—has continued smoothly. There has never been opposition for opposition’s sake in Hainesport, nor will there ever be.

Healing Hainesport After the Election If We Lose

This is naturally more difficult, because of the immense time, effort, and emotional energy I have invested in the campaign. I will continue to attend Township Meetings and to encourage others to do so, and I will continue to promote the best interests of Hainesport. I also pledge to run again next November against Mick Dickinson & Tony Porto.

However, with no election imminent, this toxic spillover into Hainesport Happenings should disappear as quickly as the lawn signs. Residents will be able to avoid any conflict simply by not attending township meetings or reading my blog. (I will stop posting links to blog entries in the group until next election season rolls around.) Hainesport will get back to normal, and friends will forgive former friends.

Healing on a National Scale

Whichever party wins, I believe this nation can come together. All over the country, in our little towns, people like me are thinking the same things I have written about here. Most people, regardless of political affiliation, are fundamentally good people who want the best for their communities. Our party leaders just need to look at how we go about this healing in our township communities, and magnify it to a national scale.