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.


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.


  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


  • 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!

July Meeting Minutes Highlights

July Meeting Minutes HighlightsPublic Hearing for Ordinance 2016-9-6 and Public Comment at the July meeting were both long…very long, so I thought I ought to pull out a few highlights for the people of Hainesport. Disclaimer: these are exact words from the minutes but I have cut a great deal for brevity. Full meeting minutes can be found here. My summary of the full meeting is here.

Public Hearing for Ordinance 2016-9-6

Anna Evans – thought it is the duty of the elected officials to take notice of what the public says.
Roger Schneider – said the decision to force out Mr. Boettcher seems to him that it is very arbitrary and asked if the committee had any reasons as to why it is being done. Mayor Dickinson said it is a step in the direction to end health benefits.
Kathy Parker – said they want Mr. Boettcher out so they can put someone else in that believes the same way that most of them do. She went on to say that they should think about what they are doing, they are blackmailing, they are the ones that should be arrested for blackmailing someone who has sat on the committee that has given his whole life to the honestly to the township.
Barbara Johnson – said this ordinance taking away medical benefits from someone who has devoted 30 plus years to this township is reprehensible. The only way she could see the committee doing that is if every one of them gave up their benefits as well.
Peter Ruble – asked who originated the ordinance; in other words, who is the one that brought up the thought of doing this ordinance? Mr. Costa said he had to object to this line of questioning.
Christy Curry – said she thinks the committee is taking a step in the right direction with the benefits, however, she sees no reason why the ordinance couldn’t have gone into effect at the end of this term. She thinks it would benefit all of them in the next election. She said it would definitely show some respect for this gentleman who has done a lot for this community.
Ray Storck – said if they are going to eliminate health benefits, which he thinks they should do, it should be done totally. Mr. Storck said all the committee should forgo the benefits.
Mark Murdy – said he doesn’t see the old law that says the committee could have the benefits in the first place, so they are amending something that wasn’t here by somebody who doesn’t know who started it for people who are paying for it out the wazoo while the committee members are enjoying all the benefits.
Pat Macken – said she agrees with what Mr. Murdy said; that the ordinance should be applying to all of the committee members. It shouldn’t be for retirees or anything else, it should be for all of them. Mayor Dickinson said it actually does apply to all of them. Ms. Macken said she hopes they won’t be here long enough to retire.
Committeeman MacLachlan asked the other members of the committee who the author of the ordinance is and it was said by Mr. Costa that there is a special labor attorney involved and that answers the question.

Committeeman MacLachlan asked to make a motion to amend the agenda for the introduction of an ordinance. Committeeman Boettcher seconded the motion. Mr. MacLachlan said now that the committee has eliminated Mr. Boettcher’s benefits, he would like to give them the opportunity to make it carte blanche. He has been sitting up on the dais when Mr. Ruble comes up and basically makes him feel like a crook. When he was actually more active in the township politics he actually lost income handling township business. Mr. MacLachlan said he always felt the health benefits were out in the open and they were taken. These guys swore they would never take health benefits. They changed the employee manual in the middle of the night to get them, they lied about their working hours to get them, they denied it to get re-elected and it took another $5,000 bill for John Paff to get it out in the open. He said it takes 200 homes entire municipal tax to pay for health benefits. He advocated eliminating health benefits last year and he thinks the entire committee should do it at once. Frankly, why should he do it if they are not going to do it? They have an ordinance in front of them that he will vote yes on to eliminate health benefits for the entire committee. There was a heated discussion between Mr. MacLachlan and Mr. Fitzpatrick concerning the health benefits. There was a roll call to amend the agenda. Mr. MacLachlan and Mr. Boettcher voted yes and Mr. Fitzpatrick, Deputy Mayor Porto and Mayor Dickinson voted no. (Here is evidence supporting Bruce’s claim underlined above.)

Public Comment

Deborah Plaia – said on the surface a statute or an ordinance or a regulation can appear to be but it has a discriminatory affect. On the surface, this ordinance does appear to be neutral, but Ms. Plaia thinks it does appear to have a negative effect on somebody who is older in age.
Roger Schneider – said when the committee members talk about their medical benefits they say something about working 26 hours a week. Mr. Costa recommended that the committee not discuss it if the matter is under litigation but Mr. Schneider can make any comment he wants to make.
Jeanne Chonus – just wanted to tell the committee how happy she is that the arrow light at Route 38 and Mt. Laurel Road is there now.
Kathy Parker – said she is not going to be political, but she thinks we should have had a moment of silence for the officers throughout the United States that were killed. Mayor Dickinson agreed with Ms. Parker and there was a moment of silence. She then said that the ordinance was passed and Mr. Boettcher has to resign in order for him to receive health benefits. Ms. Parker went on to say that she was very sorry to Mr. Boettcher that he has been treated this way by a township committee. Mr. Boettcher thanked her.
Shirley Powell – said Mr. Boettcher has been great. It’s not fair what the committee is doing to him and she will vote to eliminate all benefits if he goes.
Anna Evans – said she came to the town to make a citizens complaint about Mr. Porto’s behavior. She wanted to read a couple comments from the complaint to let people know what is going on. At this point there was a discussion on whether or not she could read from her complaint some of the comments she wrote. At that point Mayor asked if it is in the hands of an attorney and Mr. Selb agreed that it is. Ms. Evans said that it seems to her that this committee does a very good job of trying to silence the people of Hainesport whenever they try and say anything controversial. Mr. Fitzpatrick said that it is just when people spread rumors that is when they try to silence the rumors and tell people the truth. There was a heated discussion between Mr. Fitzpatrick and Ms. Evans that Mayor Dickinson stopped. Ms. Evans then read several comments she had made in her citizens complaint.
Barbara Johnson – said as a township elected official, she cannot fathom anyone posting something of that nature on any kind of social media. There is an election coming up in November and she knows that part of the reason they want Mr. Boettcher gone is so they can post somebody temporarily in his seat and then they have a quorum and they can get rid of other people that they don’t agree with. Mrs. Johnson said she thinks this is wrong, this is reprehensible. Shame on all 3 of them.
Louis Glasper – said that for Deputy Mayor Porto to have done something so despicable and still have a smile on his face the entire time, he would absolutely not have a smile on his face.
Natalie Schneider – said she thinks for the sake of transparency and keeping the record complete and accurate it would be a good idea for the township meetings to be filmed.
Lee Schneider – asked Deputy Mayor Porto why he was smirking at the people. He asked if that is why the people are upset because they made copies of something they are offended about. She asked him if he would like that to be said about his wife or daughter. Deputy Mayor Porto said his wife was attacked on Facebook and no one came to her defense. He went on to say that he has done everything for this town and this town is a great place to live in and everyone is making hay out of a Facebook post. We all post things that we realize later that maybe we shouldn’t have.
Mary McCleery – spoke to Deputy Mayor Porto and said he was disgusting, just the fact that he would put that on Facebook, it doesn’t matter who he can say it was against, it was against all women. He should be ashamed of himself for putting it on a blog where young children could see it.
Pete Ruble – said that maybe some of the people didn’t realize how much Hainesport Township is paying to the State of New Jersey for the health benefits for the township committee. He read the medical benefits for all the committee members and how much they paid for them. Mr. Ruble said the 5 minute rule stinks. They cut a woman off tonight when she had a lot more to say and a lot more to be brought up and a lot more interest. That’s a censorship if there ever was one.
Rebecca Porto – just wanted to say that her husband, Anthony Porto, does a lot for this town. Mrs. Porto went on to talk about the Facebook incident with Kermit the Frog. It is a personal thing and she sees many things on Facebook that she does not agree with. She doesn’t look at them, she doesn’t share them, and she just reads it and says ok that’s their thing and move on. She has a 10 year old son and she monitor him when he is on the internet. If parents are so concerned about what their children read they should monitor them.
Mark Murdy – is curious where they got the idea that they don’t have to work any number of hours to get benefits. Second of all, Mr. Murdy said he just heard Deputy Mayor Porto say we have all posted things on Facebook maybe we shouldn’t have. Mrs. Murdy saw the post on 6/16/16 at 6:15 P.M. Mr. Murdy saw it and so did their son. Mayor Dickinson asked him if he knew if it was shared to the other website and Mr. Murdy said his son said if that were the case it would say that someone had shared it.
Ginny Cliver – said we had someone steal from the township before but it sounds like the 3 committee members are doing the same thing but in a different way. She just can’t imagine how 3 people can sit up there and sleep at night stealing from the public like they are. She said not to tell her it’s not stealing.
Dennis Dones – said he sees Mr. Fitzpatrick at a lot of events and he represents the township well, appearance wise. Mr. Boettcher he sees at all times of the day and night. If he were a betting man, and anything and everything we do is checks and balances, he can account for Mr. Boettcher’s time. He is sure anybody can do that. These positions are public office positions and they are holding them like they own them.
Christy Curry – said this is to both the committee and the Democratic Party and the political stuff that is going on; it’s embarrassing from both sides. Someone posted decorum today and she thinks some of that is needed.
Catherine McNelis – thanked Deputy Mayor Porto and Mr. Fitzpatrick for being their normal selves; laughing and joking about everything that is going on and all the different things that are happening and pointed out the fact that if it wasn’t for the few people here that come to every meeting nobody in this room would be aware that they are getting benefits.
Dr. Elizabeth Forbes – said she has been living here for 13 years and she just started coming to the meetings and she is really embarrassed. They came to her house when they were campaigning and she opened her door and one of the things they said was that they would not take health benefits and they were running on that. She doesn’t see it and it is still going on here today and she really think they need to grow up.
Pat Macken – said she thinks he should have gone 1 step further and publically apologize to Anna. Because of the little meme that was put out there it has cost this township $6,000 plus and we are not done yet. But it would be nice if he would stand up and apologize to Anna.
Irene Baggio – said she too is embarrassed listening to all of this going back and forth. But for the record, she wanted to make something clear, that all 5 of these individuals, including Mr. MacLachlan and Mr. Boettcher, willing accepted the health benefits. None of which, we agree, that they really deserve.
Ray Storck – said this is all supposed to be about public service. Unfortunately, it is no longer about public service. Mr. Storck said there are 2 people in this room that have stellar public service records in this township; 1 of them is Bob Shinn and the other is Mr. Boettcher. It is unfortunate that it is getting lost in this. It’s all about the public service. And it’s all about what I can do for Hainesport.

So there you have it.


August Hainesport Township Meeting

August Hainesport Township MeetingDisclaimer: this 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.

Once again, this blog post will restrict itself to controversial topics, namely to the fallout from the resignations of Bill Boettcher and Bruce MacLachlan, and to Public Comment. Ordinary township business, including a talk from Bill Challender, the President of Hainesport’s Volunteer Fire Company, requesting the allocation of much-needed funds for this excellent service, proceeded as normal.

Appointment of Committee Members

After the resolution was passed accepting the resignations of Boettcher and MacLachlan, a resolution was passed appointing Gerry Clauss as a Member of the Hainesport Township Committee. Gerry took the oath of office, and will serve until January 1st 2017, at which point whoever wins the election on November 8th will take his place. A second resolution to appoint a Republican chosen candidate to the other vacant seat was tabled at this time.

The questions to ask here are twofold. Firstly, why not immediately appoint Frank Masciocchi and Leila Gilmore to the two vacant seats and be done with it? They are the two Republican candidates up for election in November against myself and Natalie Schneider. In a normal election environment, one would imagine such an appointment would be helpful to their election chances, because it would give them a head start not only on understanding how the township runs, but also on demonstrating their service to the town. Secondly, why fill only one seat? Surely it is better for the township if all five seats are filled?

As you may remember, I have speculated before on why Ordinance 2016-9-6 (to eliminate lifetime health benefits) was passed. It has not saved Hainesport any money. Bill Boettcher retired as predicted and will keep his lifetime health benefits. We do not yet know how Gerry Clauss will vote, but if he goes along with the 3 incumbent committee men, they will now have their super majority, which is required for firing personnel. Leo Selb is an obvious target.

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.

So, it is not surprising that Masciocchi and Gilmore have been kept out of it. If they were seen to be involved in such a plot it could only hurt their election chances. Similarly, I expect the committee had trouble finding volunteers to fill the vacant seats at this time. I join Hainesport in imploring Gerry Clauss to be the man I believe him to be—to make decisions in the best interests of Hainesport.

Public Comment

Amid the usual wranglings about speed bumps and land use, residents kept returning to three specific topics. I will cover each of these in turn.

  • August Hainesport Township MeetingTony Porto’s Kermit meme: Prior to public comment, Deputy Mayor Porto apologized to the township for his poor judgment in posting the meme to his and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s Facebook pages. He did not mention my complaint, my name, or raise his head to look at me. When it was my turn to speak I thanked him for his apology, although I said it should have been addressed to the women of Hainesport, and I criticized the committee for mishandling my complaint—for example, I should not have found out about the verdict of the outside attorney from a post by Rebecca Porto on Facebook. Other residents, including Alma Boettcher, Diana and Lee Schneider, and TCNJ Junior Victoria Prescavage in a spirited performance, expressed their continued outrage and disgust at Mr. Porto. Pat Macken read several paragraphs from the township handbook section on sexual harassment, which indicated Porto’s behavior was indeed such. A few residents expressed their wish that we could stop talking about the meme. Brian Murphy, in particular, praised Tony Porto and said he should be forgiven for his stupid mistake.
  • The 3 incumbents’ health benefits: Everyone now knows that Mayor Dickinson, Deputy Mayor Porto and Mr. Fitzpatrick each have health benefits paid for by the township to the tune of approx $30,000 apiece annually. As usual, residents expressed their displeasure at this. Leo Selb cleared up the fact that the committee do not even have to demonstrably work 26 hours for the benefits, even though they signed a letter back in 2012 to attest that they did so. The whereabouts of Dawn Emmons, Hainesport’s CFO, also came up for scrutiny. Dawn must officially have her main residence in New Jersey to work for the township but is listed as an accountant in Florida, which is also the contact address on her website.
  • Republican Party shenanigans: Alma Boettcher read a letter criticizing Tony Porto’s behavior as chairman of the Hainesport Republican committee and attesting that she was deliberately excluded from at least one meeting. Mark Murdy later attested the same. Alma also called for Deputy Mayor Porto’s resignation and ended her appeal, “Wake up, Hainesport!”

Meeting Conclusion

Both Mr. Fitzpatrick and Deputy Mayor Porto chose to make speeches during the final committee comments section of the August Hainesport Township Meeting. Mr. Fitzpatrick expressed his sadness that the town was so divided over politics. He claimed that he, personally, had done nothing wrong and was now being disliked by all the Democrats in the room purely on the basis that he was a Republican. Deputy Mayor Porto urged us to move forward from his stupid mistake with the meme and reminded us of all the good he has done and will continue to do for Hainesport.

For my part, I have never disliked anyone purely for their political views, and have more Republican friends right now than ever before. I judge people by their actions. Mr. Fitzpatrick has attempted to intimidate me both virtually on Facebook and in real life, and Mr. Porto has slandered me and posted the meme. However, I am prepared to start afresh. If the incumbents take no action against Leo, and if there are no repercussions to me for posting this blog—a combination of factual reporting and opinion—maybe we can have a fair election season and peace will reign for the next few months in this great little town of Hainesport.

The Political Echo Chamber

Political Echo ChamberThanks to my multiplicity of roles—writing, teaching, editing, parenting, running for local office—my Facebook friend spectrum is probably broader than most people’s, although it skews centrist-left, which is where I personally sit. I therefore get to see a lot of stuff that I personally disagree with, from both the far left and the right. Here is my observation: one side’s righteous indignation is the opposition’s smear campaign.

If only empathy could be invoked in political opponents as easily as one can ‘flip’ the camera phone to take a selfie. I loved what John McCain’s granddaughter said:

But I learned something important in 2000 and again in 2008: the picture the opposition and the media paints of a candidate is not the whole picture, and it is not the truthful picture.
I wanted our nation to see what I saw, and to believe the best about my grandfather — to believe he was driven by service more than ambition, that his decisions were always made in view of a nation rather than of himself. To believe that any mistakes he had made were not intentional, and to believe that his compromise was faithfulness to, and not a betrayal of, his duty.
So I can, and should, do the same for Hillary.

Meanwhile I, and my centrist-left friends (and this is hard to say) can, and should, do the same for Donald Trump. Or if we can’t quite get there, we should at least believe that Trump voters also want what is best for America. Perhaps then we can reduce some of the pointless bile that gets exchanged on social media.

Equally importantly, we need to pay attention to the sources of the news stories we share so gleefully which denounce the opposition candidate in what we believe to be incontrovertible terms. Folks, most of these sources are biased. If you are a liberal and you share a Trump-damning post from Daily Kos you are just as guilty of promoting this bias as if you are a conservative and share a Hillary-shaming post from Breitbart. (And no, I don’t want to hear “But I’m right!” This is where you having empathy comes in. You think you’re right. They think they are right. Get it?)

Getting Out of Your Political Echo Chamber

Finally, what we need to do on both sides is pay more attention to nationally acclaimed unbiased sources. One of my favorites is the Pulitzer prize-winning Politifact website. This is the best place to fact check the more extreme claims made on either side. Today I went there to read that, no, Hillary didn’t say she was going to raise taxes on the middle class, but yes, she did lie (again! Oh Hillary, please stop!) about the classified nature of her emails.

Why is it that everyone is so savvy now about checking out Internet rumors and email scams on Snopes.com, but when it comes to politics you simply take it for granted on both sides that the stories your personal political echo chamber resounds with are 100% true?

July Hainesport Township Meeting

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.

Ordinance 2016-9-6

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.

Public Comment

Showing the Kermit Meme to the Audience

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.

Meeting Conclusion

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.