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.

October Hainesport Township Meeting

October Hainesport Township MeetingThe agenda for last night’s meeting looked light and uncontroversial, with no planned Executive Session, a move which was, I imagine, intended to leave a good impression of our Republican Committee in the final meeting before the election. Unsurprisingly, therefore, there is little to report about the actual agenda items.

Public Comment

Natalie Schneider’s mother Diana described an incident in which an elderly friend of her family, nominally Republican, who had two Schneider & Evans signs in his yard, was harassed by two individuals who identified themselves as ‘Republicans.’ The men, whom he did not recognize, pulled our signs out and left with them. Mayor Dickinson said that without an ID he could do nothing about this. Frank Masciocchi spoke to this also, saying that his and Leila’s campaign would never do such a thing and that he knew all four candidates were “friends who want what’s best for the town.” This was the first time I have observed Frank speak at a meeting and it was, of course, in defense of the current committee. Also of note, I discovered earlier when I could not see Frank’s reply on Diana’s Facebook post about the incident, that Frank must have unfriended and blocked me on Facebook. Friends, huh?

I stood up and addressed the personnel job advertisements that came out after last meeting’s four hour executive session. Speaking first about the CFO position, I noted that Dawn Emmons, the outgoing CFO, was a full time employee with health benefits who had signed a paper saying she worked at least 26 hours a week in order to support her claim to benefits. The advertisement, however, is for a part-time position without benefits  of ~30 hours a month. I asked Mayor Dickinson how come Hainesport’s requirements for their CFO had changed so much. Deputy Mayor Porto replied that this was what the administration had now determined we needed. Next I addressed the Township Clerk’s position. I quoted the township website, which still claims on its Administrator/Clerk page that “Hainesport Township combined both positions to save salary and fringe benefit costs thus saving tax dollars.” I asked Mayor Dickinson why the committee had suddenly decided to split the positions. Mr. Fitzpatrick went on the offensive, asking me how long I had known Leo, to which I replied since I started attending meetings in March. Mr. Fitzpatrick said that I was always “singing Leo’s praises” when in fact I did not know enough about him. I replied that I had gotten to know him over my Kermit meme sexual harassment case and was very impressed by him, but I was not up here singing his praises, just asking questions.

Kitty McNelis said that she knew of four locations where Schneider & Evans signs had been removed due to Republican pressure. She also complained that one of the Republican candidates had been using her “Support the Troops” box, put in the township building by the Ladies Auxiliary six years ago, for political purposes. Mayor Dickinson said that it was a shame she was saying things like this. Porto added that this was ridiculous. Leila Gilmore did not speak even though it was she who made the Facebook post on Hainesport Happenings about the box, with no reference to Kitty.

A female resident criticized the committee for forcing Leo to reapply for the township clerk’s job at a time when it was coming up for the three year term renewal, and asked if his 21/2 years would count towards his tenure if he did get the job. Solicitor Ted Costa confirmed that he would. Porto accused the resident of grandstanding, and the resident retorted that he was the most ignorant man she had seen up there. Someone in the audience agreed with a shout of “Very unprofessional.” Porto replied, “I know she is.”

Kathy Parker went up and talked about her “silver ball” which had enabled her to predict four months ago everything that they had done including forcing Bill out in pursuit of the 4-1 majority, and now trying to get rid of Leo Selb. She said that what Mr. Fitzpatrick said to me earlier was basically accusing Leo of not doing a good job. She added that she had worked with Leo a great deal iOctober Hainesport Township Meetingn her role on the Board of Elections and held him in very high regard. She felt that if he was doing a good job he should be allowed to continue. “You’re the ones that need to go,” she added.

Deborah Douglas Plaia questioned the lawyer’s presence at the four hour executive session, suggesting that it was redundant if all that came out of it was a resolution that underlined the “employment at will” clause in the township handbook, since that was already there. Mayor Dickinson said that she was mistaken and they had gone through every page of the township handbook. Also that there was nothing about “at will employment” in the resolution. (See left.)

A resident who has spoken before about her battle to have the township take care of the drainage basin on her property spoke again, praising Leo for his tireless professionalism with her case. She asked for the township committee processes to be more streamlined and transparent.

October Hainesport Township Meeting Conclusion

Hainesport residents, the only way you will get a more streamlined and transparent government is if you elect Schneider & Evans to committee on November 8th. Leila Gilmore and Frank Masciocchi have never stood up to the committee and never will. Neither spoke out against the committee’s current machinations with respect to Leo either last meeting or this meeting. Meanwhile, I stand up there for you, Hainesport, asking the questions you want answers to, and summarizing what happens here for everyone to see.

 

Hainesport Committee Executive Session (Special Meeting)

Resident Mark Murdy Ordered Pizza

Last night the Hainesport Township Committee called a meeting on a night when hardly anyone would show up (RVRHS Back to School Night and Hainesport Elementary Special Board of Education Meeting), went into Executive Session for just over FOUR hours in the middle of the meeting, and then emerged with resolutions that could be the first step in effectively dismissing our well-liked Township Administrator/Clerk, Leo Selb—a move that I specifically predicted they would pull in August.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The meeting was called to order and after flag salute and roll call, there was a brief discussion about how the JIF Safety Incentive Money would be allocated. ($1650 and they are getting shirts.)

Then, at 7.10 p.m., the Committee moved to enter Executive Session.

Hainesport Committee Executive Session

At first the mood among the waiting township residents was almost festive. I broadcast live on Facebook for forty-five minutes, chatting about the background to the issues and reciting poetry. Then, I had a good conversation with Frederick LaVergne, our district candidate for NJ Congress, who had turned up to offer his support.Hainesport Committee Executive Session

Around 8.30 p.m. Mayor Dickinson popped out to apologize and say they were still deep in discussion and would be at least another hour. A few residents drifted away (which may well have been the purpose of his announcement.) BUT, a couple more showed up, drawn by my Facebooking, including Mike Sawka, who read over the resolution to adopt the personnel handbook with a legal eye.

Tellingly, at one point Fred LaVergne asked Republican Committee Candidate Leila Gilmore if she felt Leo Selb was doing a good job. She suggested he was not, which implies that she had prior knowledge of and supports the current committee agenda to displace him.

One of Natalie Schneider’s charming aunts went on a cookie run about 9 p.m. Half an hour or so later Mayor Dickinson came out to apologize again, but they really did think they had another hour of discussion still to go. When this threatened to develop into a heated discussion Leo hustled him away, saying the township had labor attorneys (yes, paid for by your taxes) on the clock.

Mark Murdy got a life-saving pizza dropped off for the hard core survivors around 10 p.m. Natalie’s mom ran home for an iPhone charger so I could keep social media abreast of the (lack of) progress at the meeting. The mood of the Hainesport residents still waiting out the committee was that of a community holding together in a crisis, like a major snowstorm. We were determined that whatever was happening in Hainesport Committee Executive Session would not go unobserved or unreported.

Finally, at 11.15, the committee members emerged, and the meeting resumed at 11.20 p.m.

Resolution 2016-154-9: Resolution Updating Personnel Policies and Procedures

This resolution contains several disturbing provisions that allow the personnel manual to be “amended and supplemented from time to time without notice and at the sole discretion of the Township Committee,” and that place township employees “under the legal doctrine known as ‘employment at will.‘” Both provisions give Hainesport Committee greater power over both residents and township employees. I would like to thank Committeeman Krollfeifer for voting against these provisions and Committeeman Clauss for at least abstaining from the vote. Dickinson, Fitzpatrick and Porto of course voted for them and the resolution was passed.

Resolutions to Amend the Agenda

Let’s be clear: this special meeting was not called to award the Pickleball contract (although that did happen.) It was called to set in motion a personnel change that would hopefully go under the radar due to the low attendance and the late hour.

After the four resolutions on the agenda had been passed, a motion was made, seconded and passed to amend the agenda to include a resolution to advertise for a new CFO. Then that resolution was proposed, seconded and passed.

That’s right. Former CFO Dawn Emmons, whose residential status has recently been in the spotlight, had resigned and needs to be replaced. Okay.

Next, a motion was made, seconded and passed to amend the agenda to include a resolution to advertise for a new Municipal Clerk. Then that resolution was proposed, seconded and passed.

But wait a second! For the past almost three years we have had a popular, outwardly efficient Township Clerk/Administrator, Leo Selb, who has clearly NOT resigned and who is well-liked and well-thought of by Hainesport Residents! On the township website it explains that the clerk position was combined with the administrator one “to save salary and fringe benefit costs thus saving tax dollars.” What changed? Is this the first step in getting rid of Leo?

I was accused of rumor-mongering for suggesting back in July/August that getting rid of Leo Selb was, for some reason, at the top of the incumbent committeemen’s agenda. Here is some evidence!

Public Comment

Speaking first, I began by drawing attention to the two dubious new provisions for personnel policies. I quoted Mike Sawka’s finding that “employment at will” was not legal for municipal employees. Ted Costa said that the township’s labor attorneys disagreed. I said that the provision to allow them to amend the handbook in secret retroactively gives them permission for the changes they made to the handbook four years ago that allowed them to grant themselves health benefits. Mayor Dickinson made no comment. I drew attention to the Municipal Clerk Job Advertisement and asked whether Leo wasn’t doing a good job? Mayor Dickinson said that Leo Selb could apply for the job. Okay then, let’s see if he gets it?

Roger Schneider asked why it had taken so long for them to adopt the 2016 handbook. Fitzpatrick said that the handbook was good for 2 years and that it just had to be adopted by October 1st. It was given to the labor attorney in August but he was on his honeymoon. Fitzpatrick added that it was the Municipal Clerk’s job to follow up when things weren’t running to time, implicitly blaming Leo and setting the groundwork for him not getting the Municipal Clerk’s job.

Pat Macken picked up on this, calling Fitzpatrick on this tack and asking why Leo wasn’t offered the job as a three year contract? Mayor Dickinson said that’s not how the role was offered. Pat asked where the job would be advertised and it was clarified. Things got heated and Mayor Dickinson threatened to “shut her down.”

A couple of other residents made their opinions known on what appears to be a machination to get rid of a beloved and apparently efficient township administrator/clerk.

Conclusion

Hainesport, I told you this was what was planned. The committee followed its playbook of holding meetings that few could attend, and going late into the night to attempt to avoid public scrutiny, but this time, I was there and I am telling you what happened. We must NOT let them get away with this! Please expect further instructions on how you can make known your displeasure at the incumbent committee members’ actions against the best interests of Hainesport.

And please, plan NOT to vote for any of the three of them in the future, nor for Leila Gilmore, who has been exposed as supporting their agenda.

September Hainesport Township Meeting

September Hainesport Township MeetingYesterday’s township meeting was calm and civil by recent standards, but there are a few things that need to be highlighted nonetheless. Note: Travis Richards stood in for Township Attorney Ted Costa at this meeting. Also, please note: there are just two meetings left before the election, the special meeting on September 22nd and the regular meeting on October 11th. ALL residents should make every effort to attend.

There was a moment of silence in honor of 9/11.

Discussion/Presentation

  1. 1. A special meeting has been set for Thursday September 22nd at 7 p.m. This is to award the contract for the Pickleball Courts and for Discussion in Executive session of Potential Litigation (HITCO & Personnel.) It is planned to have the Pickleball Courts built before next Spring. Incidentally, it came up that Cherry Hill also has Pickleball Courts underway.
  2.  In a related matter, it is expected that the 30-45 day window of opportunity to apply for THIS year’s Burlington County Park Grant will open and close soon. It is imperative that any township resident who wants their idea considered for inclusion on the grant proposal contact Leo Selb (or you can contact me and I will contact Leo). Ideas currently on the table include:
    1. Installing remote security cameras in various parks
    2. Replacing old style ‘black shred’ surfaces with safe play surfaces in various parks
    3. Lights for the pickleball courts/tennis courts/soccer fields.
    4. A dog park
    5. A colored walkway
    6. Establishing pavilions
  3. There was a brief discussion about introducing a Sign in Sheet at meetings for speakers during Public Comment. None of the committee members seemed enthusiastic about the idea and it was shelved.

Ordinary township business of Ordinances and Resolutions proceeded as normal.

Public Comment

Several residents thanked the committee for NOT introducing the Sign In sheet, claiming they would have objected to the additional restraints on public comment. The committee was also thanked for addressing the ‘sight triangle’ issue at the four way stop on Hainesport Mt. Laurel Rd.

A resident expressed concern about the current level of crime in Hainesport including theft. Mayor Dickinson said he was sitting down with the new Station Commander in Bordentown to address this, and Committeeman Fitzpatrick said the committee was taking steps to discourage gathering places for undesirables, such as the security cameras mentioned above.

A resident complained that she and her husband have been maintaining the retention basin on their property but recently discovered that since a ruling by the NJ Department of the environment in 2004 it should have been the township responsibility. This situation is apparently under legal review by the township.

Former committeeman Bruce MacLachlan read from a prepared statement which he said was in response to social media posts made against him by Mike Fitzpatrick and Tony Porto on Hainesport Happenings last week. He attempted to tell a story about an alleged improper use of money by Deputy Mayor Porto on behalf of Porto’s father-in-law, but was stopped by the attorney. Re the heath benefits, he claimed he had tried to have the committee members pay a higher % of the premium (the incumbents denied this.) He said that the health benefits had become an embarrassment. He added that he walked out of the July Meeting in protest at the treatment of Bill Boettcher. He ended by questioning why the two candidates for election to committee had refused to accept the vacant seats in interim, which he said was suspicious and unprecedented. He received a round of applause.

A resident said that she has been coming to the meetings for 3 months and that at every meeting something comes up about social media. She said both sides need to stop putting stuff on social media and that you are acting like five year olds.

A resident requested a lowering of the speed limit on Hainesport Mt. Laurel Rd. She addressed Committeeman Clauss in particular as she felt he agreed, and they had a discussion about this.

A resident asked Mike Fitzpatrick why he ran off and ‘hid’ when she was in Mansfield picking up OPRA requests? Some banter was exchanged.

Meeting Conclusion

Committeeman Krollfeifer chose to give a short speech. He said in a joking tone that he had been misled as to how much work was involved in being a committeeman–he had been told two hours a month but he believed he had spent 15 hours on Hainesport township issues in his first week, and now he was learning that there was another meeting this month? Given the amount of discussion there has been at previous meetings about the committeemen’s hours and whether or not this entitled them to health benefits, it is perhaps not surprising that some residents in the audience felt there was an ulterior motive behind this speech and expressed unrest, In particular Jaime Kennedy shook her head. Committeeman Krollfeifer wagged his finger at her and said something along the lines of, “Don’t shake your head at me!” Ms. Kennedy responded that Leo did most of the work. Mayor Dickinson told her that she needed to be quiet because Public Comment was over. She responded that she ought to be allowed to talk since Committeeman Krollfeifer had addressed her directly. Mayor Dickinson told her again that was not the case.

Deputy Mayor Porto also chose to speak. He said that his father-in-law was a veteran and thanked him for serving our country. He said he doesn’t appreciate Bruce MacLachlan’s slurs on his father-in-law’s reputation. He added that his social media post was responding to an actual physical threat made against him by MacLachlan as the latter left the dais in July: something like “If I saw you in the woods, I would shoot you.”

Mayor Dickinson finished by also speaking. He said that when Hainesport Happenings was first begun they had all thought it was a good thing, but that it was a shame it was being used today for the wrong reasons.

Note: here are screenshots of the Facebook posts made on Hainesport Happenings by Bruce MacLachlan, Tony Porto & Mike Fitzpatrick last Wednesday September 7th.

For Hainesport, Against the Status Quo

Against the status quoLabor Day has come and gone, which means it is historically time to focus on the upcoming election, just 63 days away. Therefore, I’d like to summarize the issues in the election for the township committee for the people of Hainesport.

You can read Natalie Schneider’s and my platform on our website: we will push to eliminate expensive health benefits, fight to keep property taxes fair and low, advocate for extended public comment at meetings, and support a three term limit. Our property taxes, incidentally, may be lower than the surrounding towns, but so they should be, given we have a smaller population and fewer unique services. Natalie and I think they should be even lower—by eliminating the health benefits, for a start.

However, the most important thing to understand is that, while the ballot will list Natalie Schneider and I as the choices versus Frank Masciocchi and Leila Gilmore, we are more accurately running against the status quo. Politics needs checks and balances, even at a local level, and when a township has been 100% run by any one party for 25 years, it gives that party too much power, especially if the same individuals have served multiple consecutive terms, creating a kind of clique. I have seen both Leila and Frank at township meetings since their candidacy was announced, but they have not spoken out against any of the questionable acts the incumbent committee members have done and allowed to be done. Natalie and I have spoken out against those acts on behalf of the people of Hainesport, and will continue to do so, whether or not we are elected, but we can be more effective when we are actually on the committee. So, if a vote for myself and Natalie is a vote against the status quo, let’s now consider what that status quo represents.

Questionable Decisions

  • The Health Benefits: The 3 incumbents have cadillac health benefit packages. In fact last year Hainesport spent ~$150,000 on health benefits paid for by the township. They awarded themselves these by changing the Township Rules handbook either in an unauthorized meeting or executive session, then attempted to conceal it, and it took a lawsuit which they fought using your taxes to get the facts out in the open.
  • The No-Show CFO: The health benefits were signed off by CFO Dawn Emmons, who herself is listed as a full time employee and also gets health benefits, despite the fact that she has a house and business in Florida, and has spent as many as 62 days at a time out of state.
  • The Ordinance to Force Boettcher out: The Ordinance recently passed to remove lifetime benefits did not save Hainesport money, but instead forced Bill Boettcher, an independent-minded man who has served Hainesport in several capacities for ~30 years, to resign. The incumbents’ true agenda here is unknown.
  • Why didn’t Leila and Frank Take the Vacant Seats?: It is unprecedented that the upcoming candidates chose NOT to serve out the terms of their predecessors in the run-up to the election.

A Lack of Transparency

  • Township Residents Not Encouraged to Attend Meetings: Until I started doing social media advertising, the township meetings, agendas, and minutes were publicized at the minimum legal level. I recall one of the incumbents telling me that the meetings were “very boring.”
  • Unanswered Questions: If you have been to any of this year’s meetings, you will have observed township residents asking the incumbents questions on multiple occasions. They typically either ignore questions or use Township Solicitor Ted Costa to explain why they are not required to answer.

Attitude Toward Residents

Sexism

  • Porto and the Kermit Meme: Read the story of the sexist meme posted to his own and Mike Fitzpatrick’s Facebook pages in the summary of the July meeting and then the August meeting. I don’t want to relitigate this, but the fact is that by not taking any action against Deputy Mayor Porto, Hainesport has set an uncomfortable precedent as to what is acceptable behavior by public employees and elected officials.
  • The committee has been five men for 12 years. When Boettcher’s and MacLachlan’s seats became vacant due to their resignation, the interim committee members chosen were both also men.

Hainesport is a great little town, but it can be even better, and one way we can make it better is to elect a committee that has checks and balances, and speaks for all the people of Hainesport. Remember, a vote for Gilmore and Masciocchi is a vote FOR the status quo, whereas a vote for Schneider and Evans is a vote for Hainesport, and AGAINST the status quo.

How Republicans Use OPRA to Dig for Dirt

How Republicans use OPRAYesterday, I received a courtesy call from my HR Director at Stockton University to inform me that a man called Jim Logue had submitted OPRA requests for my entire Stockton work record over the last four years. A quick google search on Jim Logue reveals that he works for the Burlington County Republicans, and has a habit of submitting broad swathes of OPRA requests on individuals, in what can only be described as a dirt-digging operation. Jim Logue asked Stockton for, and I quote:

  • Copies of all job descriptions, job titles and requirements for all positions held at the college.
  • Copies of documents showing Salary, Benefit and Pension costs for each year of employment
  • Copies of all expenses submitted or paid to her.
  • Copies of all email addresses assigned to her.
  • Copies of documents showing all courses taught by Anna Evans during the course of her employment
  • Copies of documents showing all syllabi and other course materials for each course taught by her
  • Copies of all advertisements announcing opening for the position she holds.
  • Copies of all job applications submitted by her
  • Copies of all publicly available complaints filed against her
  • Copies of any materials published by her during her time at the college

My charming HR Director, who apologized to me about five times for the fact that he had to do this, called my work record exemplary and spotless. But I want to go one further. That resume is four years old, guys! Here’s my current one: Resume2016. Also, because I’m an adjunct, Stockton doesn’t have my publication history, but you can find links to all my books right here on my blog. I’ve published a vast number of individual poems in the past 4 years, so it would be hard to give you a list of them all. Here’s my 2016 list, and if you want to see earlier years, stop by—I can share the file:

“How to Win at Everything That Doesn’t Matter”, Angle.
“Job Description”, Measure
“The Adjunct’s Villanelle”, Rattle
“The Curse of the Fifth”, Crab Orchard Review
“Across the Blackened Vine”, Mezzo Cammin
“Andromeda”, Honorable Mention in the Maria Faust sonnet contest.

I’ve taught Rhetoric & Composition, Argument & Persuasion in the Arts & Humanities, and Poetry & Math. If you want the syllabuses, let me know! I’ll upload them. I get ~$5000 per course, no benefits, max of 3 courses per calendar year. I’ve earned expenses for giving two SCOSA talks and a talk to High School Seniors at Audobon High. I won a merit award that helped me partially cover my trip to AWP in LA this February. (You’d know all this from my Facebook feed, by the way.)

OPRA stands for the Open Public Records Act, which seeks to “Expand the public’s right of access to government records.” The Hainesport Democrats have also used OPRA to good effect. For example, we used OPRA to obtain copies of the Hainesport Township Employee Rules Books from 2010 and 2012, which is how we found evidence supporting the fact that the current committee changed the rules to award themselves health benefits. We also used OPRA to obtain copies of Mike Fitzpatrick’s resume and contract in Mansfield, and Tony Porto’s contract in Hunterdon, so we could see what those contracts said about health benefits. We used OPRA to get the security camera footage of the election altercation. OPRA is a great precision tool. But that’s not how Republicans use OPRA.

They use it to waste time and money. And as Stockton is a State University, indirectly it’s YOUR taxes that once again foot the bill. Nice work, guys!