The Gavel, Really?

Read a factual account of the Hainesport Township Meeting.

Let me first address each of the controversial points that arose last night in turn.

  1.  By “the derelict Exxon station” on Route 38, I meant the abandoned one (well after the “You are now entering Hainesport” sign, which is on the right after Stines Apothecary coming from Lumberton. I think Mayor Porto meant the burned out shell (I remember the day of that fire well!) on the right as you go through Lumberton. Note: “derelict” vs “burned out shell”: precision in language is a wonderful thing!
  2. Hainesport Industrial Railroad (HIR) and Clean Up Day: Clean Up Day is, indeed, of benefit to residents; however, a source told me that Clean Up Day is made possible by HIR as part of the deal which was made with the Township back in 2006, when the original law suit filed by the Municipality was dropped. The Committee seemed reluctant to mention this relationship, which I need to research more fully, especially given that HIR frequently transports hazardous materials, which may constitute a pollutant to residents.
  3. Should I be allowed to receive suggestions from township residents and put them to the committee? If we lived in a truly open and transparent township, the answer would be, why not? Shouldn’t suggestions be welcomed, regardless of source? Residents know that I attend meetings and am happy to get up during Public Comment and speak, so it seems logical to use me as a mouthpiece. Furthermore, I did get 44% of the vote (compared to 47% for Frank Masciocchi.) This doesn’t exactly constitute a mandate for the elected officials. The fact is, Mayor Porto doesn’t want suggestions from anyone who disagrees with him politically. He definitely doesn’t want people to think of me as some sort of unofficial representative of residents, even though I arguably have always had the best interests of Hainesport residents at heart, unlike him. (And again, unlike him, have blocked NO residents.)
  4. Should Committeeman Fitzpatrick be allowed to laugh at residents when he is behind the dais in an official capacity? Short answer: no! And that is regardless of whether they are standing at the podium/running as a Democrat like me or simply sitting in the audience like poor Scott Cooper!
  5. Should Committeeman Fitzpatrick be able to yell at a resident and call her a liar? Again, short answer: no! That goes double when it can actually be readily proven that she is telling the truth.
  6. When I asked permission to clarify something, after Frank Masciocchi mentioned my name, I was simply trying to explain that my case was not heard in Hainesport Municipal Court, due to the conflict of interest given the charges were filed by the Mayor of Hainesport. It was heard in Bordentown Municipal. My attorney advised me, however, that any fines imposed would be returned to Hainesport.
  7. Does the current set up of meetings allow residents “plenty of opportunity to rebut everything during Public Comment” as Mayor Porto claimed when he used his gavel? Of course it doesn’t. We have been complaining about that since the new format was introduced. We raise issues during Public Comment, and if the Mayor chooses not to answer them until Committee Comment, we have NO way of responding or interacting in any way. This is the opposite of the transparency and participation that Mayor Porto claims to be for, which brings me to my final thoughts.

The Criminal Charges Filed by Mayor Porto Against Me

I’m glad I brought up the charges myself, because Mayor Porto had clearly already prepared his little statement for Committee Comment. If I hadn’t brought my side up during Public Comment, then I would have had no ability to protest afterward, given the township’s utter lack of transparency and the way they shut down all chance for debate and/or rebuttal.

Let’s be clear: I brought the case up because I received the discovery last week, almost a month after the charges were dropped by the Bordentown Prosecutor (who was scathing about the lack of evidence for the case.) The NJSP report clearly shows that the charges were filed by Tony Porto, and that the key witness is Leila Gilmore, who consulted with Mike Fitzpatrick.

So, the case looks horribly like a collusion between Tony Porto, Leila Gilmore, and Mike Fitzpatrick, three of your elected officials. Why would Leila call Fitzpatrick, not the then Mayor, Dickinson, for advice on what to do? (Because Dickinson would have told her to talk to Leo Selb, NOT to take pictures, which is, by the way, illegal in a polling place.) I also know for a fact that Porto asked a couple of other prominent Hainesport Republicans to be witnesses for the baseless charges, and they refused, calling it petty and stupid.

I just want residents of Hainesport to ask themselves if these are the kind of elected officials you really want. Hainesport isn’t a Banana Republic, where the Great Leader gets to put his political opponents in jail, and his toady gets to insult and laugh at residents from the dais. Not so long ago, this was a fantastic little town, and it can be again.

[Note: this post is an edited and expanded version of the Op Ed I originally drafted late last night.]


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