Brick Council Meeting Becomes Screaming Match
Anger erupted during a Brick Township council meeting which passed a 4-3 vote in favor of a pair of controversial ordinances that eliminate certain government positions and create other ones.
Tuesday’s four and half meeting was filled with tense and raucous exchanges between Brick Mayor Steven Acropolis and the democratic members of the council, specifically Council President John Ducey. The argument’s stemmed from Acropolis opposition to the two ordinances which eliminate eight positions within the township, including Deputy Business Administrator and Director of Recreation—held by Juan Bellu Dave Francese respectively, rename two of the positions, and create a completely new spot within the Clerk’s Office.
Departments of Recreation as well as Community Development and Land Use will be eliminated entirely, with their operations rolled into other departments.
Council president Ducey contends the restructuring will result in saving of over to six hundred thousand dollars just from the salaries. He notes that five out of the eight titles are currently staffed, however some positions like Deputy Municipal Department Head of Administration Finance and Public Affairs, have three people all with the title.
Brick Council Meeting
Giving his comments before voting took place, Acropolis said Business Administrator Scott Pizarras did the math and in actuality the ordinances would end up costing tax payers one hundred and thirty thousand, as well as result in political appointees being filled to the clerk’s positions—which is the only department the council can appoint positions to.
“My contention that this is nothing but a whole scam for the democrats to create a position for one of their democratic people.”
Acropolis also accused the Council of putting the taxpayers of the town at risk for lawsuit, based on Township Attorney Jean Cipriani’s warning by enacting the ordinances; it violates Open Public Meetings Act via the state’s Rice Law, which allows employees notice before their jobs are to be discussed at official meetings.
“By passing this ordinance on first reading like you did a week ago and passing it again tonight, I believe you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself, the township, but you are also opening up the township to lawsuits and the wasting of taxpayer dollars. “ says Acropolis, adding that “I’m sure we’re going to spend a lot of taxpayer money after I veto this ordinance on the override. “
Cipriani, who did not draft the ordinance and warned the council against it in a previous meeting, also read excerpts from the Faulkner act which she said highlighted how the ordinances could be interpreted as illegal. Acropolis questioned why several Council members reached out to Attorney Charles Starkey to draft the ordinances, who though is approved to be consulted for the Township-is a known Democrat.
Cipriani, an employee of the law firm Gilmour and Monahan which features Ocean County Republic Chairman George Gilmour, warned that if employees do end up suing, she would have to represent the township while Starkey would likely represent the council.
The Mayor noted it creates a situation where Council Members go to Mr. Starkey for opinion more fitting with their ideological views and the go to Mrs. Cipriani for non partisan Township related questions.
Council President Ducey said their decision to go to Mr. Starkey was based off the Mayor’s prior actions of “stonewalling” them when there was legislation he did not agree with.
“As soon as this particular ordinance was introduced we immediately cut off all access from the mayor’s office, from the business administrator, and from the township attorney.” He notes a similar situation occurred during budget talk several months back, spurring them to decide on using a separate attorney for the ordinances. So exactly what we predicted would happen back in April and May actually did happen.” Says Ducey.
Tempers exploded in the room during a public comment portion for the ordinances, Council President Ducey stated the Mayor prevented them from access to the Township Business Administrator. Acropolis accused Ducey of lying. Acropolis insisted on explaining himself further, prompting Ducey from raising his voice and insisting the Mayor not interrupt during the public comment portion. Ducey repeatedly said “I’m running the meeting and I didn’t recognize you.”
The situation came to a head when Mr. Ducey told Mayor Acropolis if he didn’t refrain from trying to speak during a resident’s public comment portion he would have a police officer escort him out of the room. To which the Mayor claimed “Vinnie, if you put a hand on me, I’ll sue everybody here,” said Acropolis to the officer.
He then told Cipriani and Pizarras to leave the meeting with him. Acropolis sat in the public seating for a few minutes, threatening to speak his mind as a private citizen, before exiting permanently for the evening.
Ducey said based on the ordinance they drafted there is no fear of lawsuits against the council.
“He was trying to bully the council his way. He was not getting his way with regards the way this ordinance was going so he basically took our tools to run effective township government, he took them out of this room and out of the taxpayers purview.”