This summary of the July Hainesport Township Meeting will restrict itself to controversial topics, namely the Public Hearing and Final Adoption of Ordinance 2016-9-6, and Public Comment. Ordinary township business, including an excellent NJSP report by Trooper Storm Colleton, proceeded as normal.
This ordinance was given its first reading and introduction at the June Township meeting. The townspeople widely objected to it in June’s Public Comment. However it was nevertheless passed to the second stage 3-2.
The Ordinance is disguised as a cost saving measure and a “step in the right direction” towards the elimination of Health Benefits for the current Committee, as it eliminates “Healthcare Benefits for Members of the Governing Body Retiring or Ending Service.” In practice, what it means is that Bill Boettcher, who has served Hainesport faithfully for over 25 years and is in his 80s, will be forced to retire before the end of his term (within the next 20 days) in order to keep his and his wife’s healthcare benefits. It will not save Hainesport any money if he retires within the next 20 days. What it will do, is vacate his position on the committee so the Republican Committee Chairman (Deputy Mayor Porto) can appoint someone more likely to agree with the three incumbents.
As this was the Public Hearing, township residents were entitled to comment. Comments were plentiful and vigorously negative. Many wanted to understand the Committee’s motivation for introducing this Ordinance, given the likely result of Boettcher’s resignation/ no money saved. Others asked who had introduced the Ordinance. The Committee gave no answers. As usual, many residents questioned the Healthcare Benefits of all Committee Members and said they would be happy if everyone lost benefits at the same time. A Hainesport lawyer also questioned the legality of the Ordinance with respect to the State. It was observed that a super-majority of 4-1 is needed to fire township personnel.
Once the Public Hearing had ended, Committeeman Bruce MacLachlan also spoke for his permitted 10 minutes. He tried to introduce a motion to amend the agenda to present his own Ordinance (which removes Healthcare Benefits for all Committee Members) but was voted down 3-2. Ordinance 1016-9-6 was proposed, seconded, and passed 3-2.
Here is a link to a video of these two motions on YouTube.
If you agree with me, and the vast majority of township people present at the meeting, that this Ordinance is suspect, cruel to Bill Boettcher, and likely represents a hidden agenda on the part of the three incumbents, I encourage you to contact the township.
During public comment many residents made additional observations relevant to Ordinance 2016-9-6, especially the lawyer who was not permitted by Ted Costa to fully explore her questioning of the legality of the Ordinance during its Public Hearing. The issue of the Employment Lawyer consulted privately by just two of the Committeemen at an unauthorized cost which has now reached $6000+ also came up again. Bill Boettcher was repeatedly praised for his service to Hainesport.
I then spoke about my Citizen’s Complaint against Deputy Mayor Porto for the sexist & misogynistic Kermit the Frog meme that he posted briefly on Hainesport Happenings, and then deleted but posted instead on both his own and Committeeman Fitzpatrick’s page. I read some key sections from the complaint. I should add that those present who wanted to were given poster-size copies of the meme to hold up in silent protest whenever Deputy Mayor Porto spoke. The NJSP were made aware of this protest and approved it. I was told that my complaint is still under review by the township’s labor attorney.
After I spoke many people who came up to make other comments also expressed their disgust at the meme and dissatisfaction with Deputy Mayor Porto. When pressed by Mark Murdy (who confirmed that he, his wife Deanna, and their son had all seen the original post on Hainesport Happenings) Deputy Mayor Porto said that he regretted posting the meme, although he denied that it was directed at anyone personally or that he had put it on Hainesport Happenings. Murdy encouraged him to apologize to me after he, Murdy, was finished speaking. This did not happen.
The new turn arrow at the junction of Hainesport Mt. Laurel and 38 was praised, and Rebecca Porto commended her husband for taking 3 hours out of her birthday celebrations on July 4th to save a township dog.
Towards the end of Public Comment people who came up often shared their disappointment that both Committeeman Fitzpatrick and Deputy Mayor Porto had displayed arrogance and contempt in dealing with township people during the session. Porto was described as “smirking” more than once. Several residents said they were ashamed of Porto and/or Fitzpatrick.
Bruce MacLachlan chose to make a speech during Comments from the Committee. He explained that he had hated coming to the meetings for the last few years and had only continued because of the benefits. He criticized Mayor Dickinson, Deputy Mayor Porto and Committeeman Fitzpatrick for being self-serving. He added that now, not even the benefits made it worthwhile, and walked out. It was unclear whether this constitutes resignation.
Bill Boettcher thanked Hainesport for being allowed to serve the town and was given a standing ovation.
Mike Fitzpatrick chose to make a speech also. In a remarkable display of what my teenage daughters call “sub-tweeting,” he implied without naming me that I was a rumor-monger and a hate-spreader, citing the admitted misconception I voiced yesterday that the Committee had been asked to move the meeting to a venue with a greater capacity, along with my theory that the 4-1 super-majority was required to fire township administrator Leo Selb, possibly replacing him with Fitzpatrick. He also reminded us all that everyone knew about his Healthcare Benefits when we voted him in last November. He did not mention that he told people I know that once he was re-elected, he would fix this.
So, there you have it. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook.