Monthly Archives: September 2010

September Trivia

As HeightsOnline reported in an earlier post, Councilman John Brennan produced an ordinance at the September 2 Borough Council meeting and used it to support the idea that the Public Works employees should be paid their retroactive raises, despite mounting a petition drive to try and freeze the contracted wages.

The ordinance reads: “Salary and wages shall be established by Mayor and Council by ordinance or negotiated contract with those group so recognized.”

“So why weren’t we paid?,” asked the employees who were in the audience at the September 2 meeting.

“It is quite clear that you should have been paid months ago,” Councilman Brennan stated, “And what I told you was true, is true.”

And, at the end of the meeting, Councilman Brennan made his final statement: “And I’d just like to say, I’m still opposed to your contract. But once a contract is executed, it should be honored.”

Using the power of the Open Public Records Act request, HeightsOnline obtained a copy of a Borough  e-mail which is highly interesting in light of the discussion above.

So, why weren’t you paid, public works employees?  Especially if it was quite clear you should have been paid months ago? Perhaps this message will shed some light, spelling errors and all:

—–Original Message—–
From: John Brennan [mailto:jbrennan@springlakehts.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 9:58 AM
To: Colleen Lapp; Theresa Casagrande
Subject: 2009 and 2010 Salary and Wage Ordinances

Colleen and Theresa:

This si to advise that there is a group of citizens circulating a Petition to place the 2009 and 2009 Salary and Wage Ordinances on the November ballot.  In light of this development, I recommend that retroactive raises not be paid until the issue is resolved.

Councilman Brennan

Why weren’t you paid, public works employees? That smoke you smell may be rising from someone’s pants that are on fire. Click for a downloadable copy of the Email message about the salary and wage ordinance

Brennan Disputes, Baits Audience Members “We’re supposed to act like adults,” says Central Avenue Resident, “Let’s start doing it.”

Nadine Drive resident Richard Diver stepped foward to the microphone at the September 2 Voice of the Public session.

“First of all, I want to commend Councilman Maccanico – you run a great meeting!” he said. The audience burst into applause. “You’ve done a great job.

“It was in the Street Beat, I think it is called, in the Coast Star where they asked something about going out someplace and the person said, ‘no, I’d rather go to a Spring Lake Heights Council meeting. It’s more exciting.’ Maybe not so exciting tonight. It’s calmer, that’s a bit of an exception.

“But like Lynn said, it comes to a time, with petitions, it’s true. The people have a right to make a petition. There is no question about it. But I think in some instances, it’s something that can be abused for a political purpose and I think that’s what has been happening here.”

At this, the audience burst into loud applause.

“They have the right to go right back out tomorrow and start over, and that is their right. They can do it. They can do it. But … but … I voted to elect a Council. And when you elect a Council, they supposedly represent our views. If they don’t, you get to un-elect them. That’s the role of the public as well. However, I would say if, in all fairness, in the discussion before on the health benefits – and you are right, John, health benefits have gone up precipitously – but I haven’t heard you make a motion to increase the employee’s share of those benefits. Which you could also do.

“They’re in our contract,” said one of the public works employees.

“Right,” replied Mr. Diver. “It is in your contract, it has been negotiated into your contract for what, 1.5%?”

“No, that is the State law,” said Councilman Brennan. “$350.00 is the contract contribution. On a package that is worth in excess of  $20,000.”

“I understand that,” Mr. Diver responded, “But the town …”

“No, no, no, Mr. Diver, you know the town …” Councilman Brennan began. “The collective bargaining agreement is going to take precendent over the ordinance.”

“I understand that …” Mr. Diver attempted to respond.

“Then don’t say something to the contrary,” scolded Councilman Brennan.

“Now, I’m trying to ask you a question and get educated on this,”  Mr. Diver continued as Council President Maccanico gaveled for silence, “If … if … the town changed its ordinance in the future, concerning the benefits, and there is a section on benefits, that generally concerns health benefits and others, is the town prevented from changing what it will cover and will not cover? “

“The collective bargaining agreement is going to control the respective …” Councilman Brennan started to interject.

“Doesn’t the collective bargaining agreement expire and new one get negotiated?,” Mr. Diver finished.

“The collective bargaining agreement expires but under PERC rules – Public Employee and Relations Commission rules – the terms of the collective bargaining agreement that has expired remains in effect and in force until the placement of a new collective bargaining agreement,” stated Councilman Brennan.

“Unless negotiated out,” contributed one of the public works employees.

“Unless negotiated out,” agreed several of the Council members.

“Okay,” said Mr. Diver.

“And so that is the point,” Councilman Brennan said. “What happened with the public works contract … what happened with the public works contract , Mr. Diver, and you avoided this question last time, and I’ll ask it to you again – do you think … do you think a buyout of $20,000 a year for 10 years for health insurance for 55 to 65 is something that the people of this town support?”

“Again, I’ll give you the same answer I gave you last time,” Mr. Diver responded. “Give me a copy of the contract and let me read it and I’ll give you an answer. You know …”

“You want to avoid the hard … you want to avoid the hard … you hardly make sense …” Councilman Brennan began heatedly as Council President Maccanico began to pound his gavel for order. “Because you … well, you avoid the hard questions.”

“The question I was trying to ask…” Mr. Diver attempted.

“Please, you have no credibility with me,” sniffed Councilman Brennan, dismissing him.

At this, the audience burst into applause and laughter in support of Mr. Diver, who threw both hands into the air.

“Look who your fans are … the employees,” Councilman Brennan said angrily. “We’ll see how you do with the public.”

Mr. Diver said in a level voice, “It is not a question of …”

“You know what, Mr. Diver?” interrupted Councilman Brennan,  “What’s going on right now …”

“Look, this is what has to end,” commented Mr. Diver. “These people go out every day and they earn a fair living and they do a good job. I’ve listened from my bedroom window at 3:00 in the morning when they are plowing the snow. I hear the police cars go through my cul-de-sac …”

“Do you think in average earnings,” Councilman Brennan interrupted again, “In average earnings, do you think … in average earnings of $83,000 a year, before the retroactive raises that were enacted tonight … plus $20,000 in benefits, plus $20,000 a year from 55 to 65, plus 5 weeks vacation … do you think that is something the people of this town support, Mr. Diver?”

“I don’t have the information to answer the question,” Mr. Diver again attempted to explain. Without first reading the contract, there was no way for him to know if the terms being flung about were accurate or not.

Council President Maccanico pounded his gavel. “Mr. Diver. Mr. Diver. You don’t have to answer his questions,” he said. “You are not on trial.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Mr. Diver responded as the audience applauded. “My point, and just to conclude, I think we had a fair discussion…”

Councilman Brennan erupted, “You know, a discussion …”  Council President Maccanico again gaveled for silence.

“Please. This is what has to stop,” explained Mr. Diver. “This is exactly what has to stop.”

“Avoid questions …” sneered Councilman Brennan.

Mr. Diver continued, ignoring him. “We are a good town, with good people, we can come to a fair consensus.”

“Correct,” said Councilman Brennan.

“Then let’s just do it,” Mr. Diver concluded.

“Thank you,” said Council President Maccanico, as the audience again applauded Mr. Diver for his comments. “Would anyone else like to speak.”

Kevin Burns of Central Avenue next stepped to the microphone to speak. “There is one thing wrong that Mr. Diver said,” he began.

“Who are you, now?” questioned Councilman Brennan.

Council President Maccanico gaveled. “Please state your name again,” he asked, as Councilman Brennan continued to ask ‘Who are you?’ in the background.

“Kevin Burns, Central Avenue.”

“Mr. Burns, please direct your questions to me … don’t  … any other …” Council President Maccanico began to explain.

“I have the floor, Councilman? Then I would not like to hear from Mr. Brennan,” Mr. Burns said, again attempting to speak his piece. “There is one thing wrong that Mr. Diver said. This is a great town, and there are great people here. He said ‘good,’ it’s great.” The audience applauded. “Everybody in town realizes, like he stated, that snowstorm? There wasn’t one of  you guys out there …” Mr. Burn gestured to the Council dais, then pointed at Councilman Brennan, “…especially you … out there plowing snow. Correct?”

Several of the Council members agreed, “Correct.”

“If we need something done, who are we going to call on?” Mr. Burns continued. “We are going to call on the public works, correct? When your family is in need …”

Councilman Brennan interrupted, “Where do you live again?” he asked.

“When your family is in … excuse me?” Mr. Burns stopped to ask.

“Where do you reside?” Councilman Brennan said.

“I told you, so you can go read the minutes,” Mr. Burns replied calmly.

“What do you do for a living?” Councilman Brennan demanded as Council President Maccanico hurriedly applied the gavel and several audience members whistled and commented.

“Mr. Brennan!” Council President Maccanico warned.

“Are you a public employee? Are you a public employee?” heatedly quizzed Councilman Brennan, ignoring the pounding of the gavel.

“Mr. Brennan!” Council President Maccanico again warned.

“Another thing, when our families are in need …” Mr. Burns attempted to continue as several Council members called for a point of order in the proceedings against Councilman Brennan.

“Point of order,” called Councilwoman Kegelman. “That is totally unacceptable.”

“Thank you, m’am,” replied Mr. Burns.

“Are you a public employee?” Councilman Brennan continued demanding of the resident in a rising voice. “Are you a public employee? Are you a public employee?”

In the uproar that ensued, Council President appealed to the Borough Attorney who told the resident, “The law provides that the Voice of the Public allows you the right to speak.”

“John, John,” Council President Maccanico tried to quiet the Councilman.

Mr. Burns was finally able to continue speaking, “The other thing that we need to keep in mind is that when our families need something, like even one of you, or your grandkids, or your kids and you’ve got to call the first aide or you’ve got to call the fire department or call the police department, they’ve always been there. So all this arguing, and all this bickering, and all this stupid stuff that’s going on, we’re supposed to act like adults, let’s start doing it.

“There is a contract that is signed, give it to them,” he said, gesturing to the public works employees. “Because I’ll tell you what. We’ll pay a lot more as taxpayers when they drop that lawsuit on us because they’re not getting paid.”

At this, almost the entire hall erupted into loud applause and thanks to Mr. Burns.

After ascertaining that no one else wanted to speak, Council President Maccanico closed the public portion of the meeting.

Council President Maccanico, who had spent most of the evening’s meeting keeping order and gaveling for silence, now spoke. “Well, before we adjourn the meeting, I’d like to say that even though we yelled and screamed at each other, we do have to reach a consensus to move forward. We all live in the same town. We all work together. As I told these guys before, you know I voted against you, Bob, you know, but I think you understand why. I’m a working man, just like you. But I do live by a certain set of principles and you know that, alright?

“As a council, we do have to work together and as heard from some of the residents here, the bickering has to stop. We’re not going to accomplish anything, bickering, yelling and screaming,” Council President Maccanico noted, closing the evening’s proceedings.

Brennan votes against Chief’s raise: The public speaks: “Why weren’t you getting paid your raises?” asks John Lewis of the public works employees.

Following voting on the resolution to honor the department of public works contract, Councilman Brennan commented to the employees in the audience that he still was against their contract.

“Despite a zero increase to the budget?,” one of the workers inquired.

“No!,” Councilman Brennan exclaimed, “Let me tell you about the zero increase to the budget …”

“There will be no talking,” Council President Maccanico gaveled the speakers. “There will be no talking.”

“I have another resolution authorizing the Spring Lake Heights chief financial officer to pay the employees with an executed contract now on file with the borough for a period covering January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2010, in accordance with the terms of their respective contract,” said Councilwoman Cindea. “This includes the Chief.”

And who else? And who else?” demanded Councilman Brennan.

“Everyone who has a contract,” Councilwoman Cindea stated.

“No, who is it? Who has contracts?,” Councilman Brennan continued.

“Art Herner and …,” began Councilwoman Cindea.

“The head of public works and the clerk?” posed Councilwoman Kegelman.

“The former Borough Administrator as per the terms of her contract,” added Borough Attorney Fred Raffetto.

“You’ve been paid though, right, haven’t you?,” Councilman Brennan asked. “You’ve not been paid?” he added when Mrs. Casagrande shook her head to the negative.

“It is only a small amount for 2009,” Mrs. Casagrande responded.

“Right, well, I would … go ahead … Someone is going to make a motion and a second?” Councilman Brennan asked.

“I’ll make a motion,” said Councilwoman Cindea.

“I’ll second it,” Councilwoman King responded.

“Any discussion on this?” Council President Maccanico asked.

“Yes,” replied Councilman Brennan, “I’d like to make a motion to amend. I have no problem with Chief Petriken getting his raise because Chief Petriken’s raise is a promotional raise. I voted for Chief Petriken’s contract, I have no problem with Chief Petriken getting his raise. Ms. Casagrande I haven’t really thought about because she is no longer the administrator. I don’t know what my position is. I guess it’s not going to cost that much money.

“But I have a very serious issue with respect to the superintendent of public works, and the reason why is this: Unlike negotiated groups, what the ordinance says is salaries and wages shall be established by mayor and council by ordinance or negotiated contract with those groups so recognized.

“So, it protects collective bargaining agreements with groups. I don’t believe that superintendents of public works should have the benefits of having contracts. I ran on that when I ran, and I opposed it and I got elected. Mr. Herner’s 2.5% raises on top of the already exhorbitant salary for what he has to do is an insult to the people out … to the people who are paying taxes out here. So ny request is that we amend this resolution to permit the payment of executed contracts for the chief and the administrator only.”

Councilman Brennan did not take time to note that the contracts for the Chief nor for the administrator had not been part of a collective negotiating process, either, but singled out the superintendent of public works.

Councilman Brennan also failed to note that when Mr. Herner’s contract was negotiated in 2008, it was believed that 2.5% was the lowest raise ever given by the Borough of Spring Lake Heights. The past practice of the Borough was to grant all employees the same percentage increase across the board and all other employees received a 3.85% raise that year.

During contract negotiations, Mr. Herner indicated he was willing to accept a lower salary than the workers and was also willing to lock into the lower rate for three years, in order to set an example. The Borough paid Mr. Herner his contracted salary amount in 2008, but has so far reneged on paying it in 2009 and 2010.

Mr. Herner indicated that he understands wages will most likely be frozen in the future and does not argue against that, being himself a taxpayer in Spring Lake Heights. “However,” he indicated, “ I was brought up to believe that a man’s word is his bond and a contract is a contract.”

Council President Maccanico asked if anyone would second Councilman Brennan’s motion to block Mr. Herner’s raise. “Hearing no second, the motion dies, “ he noted.

“No, the amendment dies,” said Councilwoman Kegelman. “The amendment dies. Now we have a motion and a second, it is still on the table,” she said, referring to the original motion Councilwoman Cindea had made to pass the resolution.

“And I will need to read the resolution by title,” said Mrs. Casagrande, “It is a resolution authorizing the Spring Lake Heights chief financial officer to pay employees who have an executed contract on file with the Borough from the period covering January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010, in accordance with the terms of their respective contracts. It was a motion by Councilwoman Cindea and seconded by Councilwoman King.”

“Thank you,” said Council President Maccanico. “May I have a roll call, please?” Mrs. Casagrande began the roll with Councilman Brennan.

“Because of the failure to amend to exclude Mr. Herner’s raise,” he said, “I vote no.”

Councilwomen Cindea and Crippen voted yes, as did Councilwoman Kegelman, who added, “I vote in favor of all contracts.” Councilwoman King voted yes, and Council President Maccanico voted no.

“Motion passes, your honor,” noted Mrs. Casagrande.

“Thank you. Do you have any other resolutions, Ms. Cindea? Do we have any more discussion items?” Council President Maccanico asked. “I’d like then to open the Voice of the Public. If anyone would like to discuss anything that was said, just come up to the microphone and state your name.”

“Tom Vorbach, Ninth Avenue. I think the Council is depriving the people of the right to vote 459 people and before that, 439 people signed the petitions. The voice of the people is that they want to have a say in the economy and you are ignoring that.”

“Thank you, anyone else?” Council President Maccanico asked.

“John Lewis, Prospect Avenue. I really wanted to address the guys here, some things were said about you guys being made the bad guys. I don’t think that anybody that walked in here from the public that told stories to these people about getting 5% cuts in their pay two years in a row and the fact that they lost their job and were out for months at a time, nobody came in here and said a bad word about you. The frustration not only in this town, the State, the country, is that people want to get a grip on their taxes.

“And when insurance companies that you guys have are able to raise your insurance payments 16% or 12% and there is nothing they can do about that, the only place that people can go is to say ‘stop the increases in salaries.’ When I pull up Spring Lake Heights’ Web site, and you try to get the most current one, it says that the median salary for people who live in town is $64,000 a year. Now that means half the people in town make less than $64,000, so you can certainly understand when you read about salaries and benefits … that they are saying ‘why do we need to pay more for that?’

“So, you saw what went on here … did you really understand any of the arguments going back and forth, what’s transpired over the last two years? Because I’ve been here at every meeting and it is hard for me to figure out what these guys are talking about. The simple thing that everyone who comes in here, the Taxpayers’ Association which I started years ago, I’ve talked to you in the street about this, we need to get a handle on it.

“A few of the people who have been running this town are pocketing all the money,” Mr. Lewis accused, to the groans of the audience. “I mean, there are big salaries being handed out here, $417,000 going to a ‘volunteer’ fire department and no body knows where the money is going. No body can ask where the money is going. A $650,000 fire truck is worth more than all the equipment that you guys are riding around with, all of it. And the public is supposed to come after you guys? No!  You guys are being used by those people that want to continue their big salaries and get that buy-out in the sky, that’s what it’s all about.”

The members of the audience loudly snickered at Mr. Lewis’s statements.

“Did you sign the petition?” Councilwoman Kegelman asked Mr. Lewis.

“Of course I signed the petition,” Mr. Lewis stated. “Any time the people get the chance to vote, the idea of democracy is that you make an argument, he makes an argument, and then the people get to decide at the ballot box.” Mr. Vorbach applauded Mr. Lewis.

“You don’t want it to happen? Okay, you don’t want it to happen? Okay, I’ve watched you for ten years here,” Mr. Lewis said.

“The petition process, John,” said Councilwoman Cindea, “The proper process is something like what they are doing in Spring Lake: ‘do you want us to build or not to build?’ Contractual raises should never be the subject. The League of Municipalities …”

“Patty, did you get a petition together to get rid of Malick?” questioned Mr. Lewis. “Did you get a petition?”

“That was a recall,” said Councilwoman Kegelman.

“That has nothing to do with raises and with contractual obligations, John,” Councilwoman Cindea explained.

“And yet the people you were against are your best friends all of a sudden. And we’re back in the same situation we were in two years ago. The same people that keep taking all the money are still taking all the money. And these guys can’t get a point and a half?  I mean, we would … I settled … when I initially did here, could we have two years of salary freezes. Me, the mayor, every other city worker … that I was … we got no raise from the city this year. CPI … and the first time in 12 years they said ‘no increase.’ I understand that. I think you guys understand it, too, but when they get you down here to front for the teachers that got a 10% raise … there is one teacher for every 9 and a half kids over there. That school over there. They signed it three days, the contract, before Christie’s law went into effect, so they wouldn’t have to pay one and one-half percent.

“You guys are being pushed in here to front for them, for April, when they go around and say we want our money now. So, all I want these people to say and I don’t care if it is him, her, him, I just want them to get together in the room and come out and say here are the two years there are going to be flat wages. After that, I know the governor’s two percent increase and we’ll have to live with that,” Mr. Lewis concluded.

“You understand negotiations, right?” asked a public works employee of Mr. Lewis. “You know how to give and take?”

“Yes,” responded Mr. Lewis.

“Well, giving and taking, we are getting 3% for two years in a row. That’s 1.5% a year, that’s basically what it comes out to. I’m going on my 29th year. This Council has negotiated a great deal for the town for the future. But nobody ever talks about that. Now there are ten steps for the maximum … for the top salary  … and no one is talking about that. This is a good deal for the town,” the worker continued.

The public works in the audience grew restless and tried to express their concerns.

“We understand the situation, but we’ve done the best we can,” another worker countered.

“And you did, but what is the point? Why weren’t you getting paid your raises? Is that because of the petition?” Mr. Lewis asked.

“Yes,” said the majority of Council members in a chorus.

“Yes, yes, don’t you get it?” the workers asked.

“We had a zero increase in 2010,” Councilwoman Cindea said. “What was your increase in your Social Security in 2009?”

“I don’t know,” Mr. Lewis said.

“It was 5.8%. It was 5.8%, you got a raise,” Councilwoman Cindea pointed out. “Social Security over the two years, it was 5.8%, John.”

“Well, thank you, because it was politicians that gave it to me,” Mr. Lewis shot back. “I can’t see the point of how much it was.”

Council President Maccanico gaveled against the rising rumbling of the audience members. “Mr. Lewis, do you have anything else to say?” he asked.

“Hmmmm, no, I don’t think so,” Mr. Lewis answered.

“Thank you, anyone else,” Council President Maccanico asked, still gaveling. “Please direct your comments to the Chair.”

NEXT:  The rest of the public has their say.

Public Works Employees Remind Everyone They Accepted a Pay Freeze in their 2010 Contract; Brennan Votes “Yes” to Honor Public Works Pay Increase for 2009, “You should have been paid months ago,” he tells public works employees.

Continuation of September 2 meeting

 Once he completed his analysis of whether he thought the public works collective bargaining association was valid or not, Councilman Brennan went on to clarify his thoughts on the petition.

“Now, that, so, in the petition, what happened with the petition,” Councilman Brennan continued, “As Mr. Vorbach has detailed repeatedly, is that when they pulled this repealing switch the first time because they are afraid of allowing the people to have their say, that’s it, that’s all. What happened was that once the petition was repealed, once they had repealed the first ordinance and put in the second ordinance, Mr. Vorbach went out to find out what the people who signed the petition wanted to do and they overwhelmingly said do a second petition. That’s all.

“And by the way, folks, get this – the ordinance, the same ordinance that talks about negotiated contracts, the next sentence says: a salary ordinance shall be passed annually after adoption of the yearly budget. Well, the 2009 Salary and Wage Ordinance, the budget for 2009 when Ms. Cindea was the finance chair, was adopted back in, like, June of 2009 or May of 2009 yet she did not introduce a Salary and Wage Ordinance. That is why we are now in September 2010 and a 2009 Salary and Wage Ordinance has not been adopted.

 “It’s the law of our town and it is the way it was always done, so all I can tell you is, you know, they have their side, they have their bones to pick, I got the facts,” Councilman Brennan finish officiously.

This comment was met with much laughter by members of the audience and Council alike.

“Thank you, John,” said Council President Maccanico, waving for silence. “I believe why this Salary and Wage Ordinance was not introduced is because we were working on the public works contract at the time and we were trying to get their salaries coordinated with the Salary and Wage Ordinance.”

“Thank you, thank you,” members of Council responded to the Council President.

“Butch, it is violation of the ordinance …” Councilman Brennan began as Council President Maccanico gaveled for silence. He then recognized Councilwoman Sara King to speak.

“This whole situation that is occurring in our town is a travesty,” stated Councilwoman King. “And as I have said and I was commented on in the Asbury Park Press, the public are being duped.

“And I have had several people come to me and give me the different versions of what they were told, and what was said to them, how they were intimidated, and how they were coerced or fearful, and felt that they had to sign these petitions.

“It has been since the beginning of this, my position that a contract is an agreement that is a binding thing. Nothing should interfere with that until it expires. And for our employees in this town to not only have to go through this, but to bear the opinions of a certain group of people who have now turned other residents and members of this town against them, and they have to go and they have to continue to perform their duties because they have all seen the petition. They know who has signed these petitions. They know people that they have felt really a lot differently about and now they are saying, ‘what’s going on here?’.”

“You cannot violate a contract,” Councilwoman King continued. “I used to be a union negotiator. I know what I am talking about, and the lies and the things that are being said by not just one, two, three, or four people that are in this little group of trying to perpetrate this petition, it is disgusting. And I don’t appreciate being part of a Council that wants to go forward and do something to harm our employees. And, in the ultimate end, to harm the relationship that the employees and the residents of this town have because there has always been a good relationship.

“If you don’t think this is harboring hard feelings and resentment towards the employees of this town, then the people who signed this petition need to regroup and relook at it. There are different ways that you can go about things and we had a gentleman stand up here at this meeting about a month ago, and he said that he wouldn’t want the residents of this town making a decision about his salary and wages.

“And I concur with that. I don’t think that if you are going to have a governing body, and you are going to elect people to do what is right for this town, that you should then take people’s salaries and put them out for a vote. I am totally against that.”

Members of the audience and council loudly applauded Councilwoman King’s statement.

“I just want to understand something,” demanded Councilman Brennan. “So you are opposed to the statutory right of the people under the laws of the State of New Jersey, to have a petition with respect to a Salary and Wage Ordinance? That’s your position, Ms. King?”

“No, John, that’s not … “ the Councilwoman began.

“Oh, well, then, what is your position?” Councilman Brennan needled.

“That is NOT what I said,” emphasized Councilwoman King.

“Oh, well, you know what? Sometimes … sometimes … the reason why the petition right exists …” Councilman Brennan began.

“Who has the floor here?,” Councilwoman King asked.

“The reason why the petition right exists … “ Councilman Brennan continued, ignoring Councilwoman King.

“John, who has the floor?” Councilwoman King again asked.

“I think I do,” Councilman Brennan interjected. “The reason why the petition right …”

“No, you don’t,” said Councilwoman King.

“No, you don’t,” Council President Maccanico agreed, pounding his gavel. “John, you do not have the floor.”

“The reason the petition right …” said Councilman Brennan, ignoring the Council President.

“John …” Councilwoman King warned.

Council President Maccanico brought down the gavel emphatically. “John, you do not have the floor.”

“Okay, well, let me know when she is done so I can respond to this,” Councilman Brennan said airly, settling back in his chair.

The audience mumbled at this disrespect shown towards Councilwoman King.

“As I was saying, “ continued the Councilwoman, “I really think this was the wrong thing to do. I am not opposed to petitions, I did a petition in the past, and it happened to be about salary and wage, but it was with people who were getting 30 and 25% increases. We are talking about 1.5, 2.5, 3.85, over a period of time. Now we have someone who has filed a suit against the town because, and as Ms. Cindea said, it is the Chief and he hasn’t had a raise since 2007.

“And this is a subject that I’ve been harping on for I don’t know how many meetings. I just boggles my mind that you have a group of police officers working for the Chief, and they see how he is treated; how do think they feel? How do you think they are looking at the way we are governing this town? Are salaries out of proportion? Salaries are out of proportion in every single town but you have to start somewhere and that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to start somewhere.”

“I think that is because … “ Councilman Brennan interjected.

“Thank you, John,” said Council President Maccanico.

“You cannot do it overnight,” Councilwoman King continued, “And you have to do it in a respectable, proper, fair fashion, which is what we are trying to do as a Council. With the exception of one individual. And that is not appropriate.”

“Butch … “ Councilman Brennan pleaded to the Council President.

“I did not mention your name,” said Councilwoman King, indignantly. “You did.”  At this, the audience burst into laughter.

“I just feel that we need to come together, we need to look at this in the proper fashion, and we need to move forward and stop nit-picking and being children because maybe we didn’t get to do what we wanted to do. That’s all I have to say,” concluded Councilwoman King.

The audience and Council again applauded Councilwoman King’s statements.

“Can I respond?,” Councilman Brennan asked Council President Maccanico.

“Let me just say a couple of things in response to Mrs. King,” Councilman Brennan said. “She comes up here and says she has spoken to people who said that they were intimidated, coerced, and fearful. Well, she didn’t name any of those people because, truthfully, I don’t believe that any of those people exist because I did circulate the petition and I can assure you all that there was no … with respect to my participation … there was never any intimidating, coercion, or fearfulness. What we found was … What I found was, when I was circulating the petition, was that people are really fed up with public sector salaries and benefits. And let’s talk about this ‘only 1.5%’.

“You all know what your benefit package is,” Councilman Brennan directed to the public works employees in the audience. “Last year, 2009, before the raise, the average earnings of the Borough employee, a full-time employee, was $83,000.”

“Not public works!” commented a DPW employee.

“There are a lot of you … you know what … that is the average employee,” continued Councilman Brennan. “That is the average earnings of employees …”

“Now, now, no comments,” Councilman Maccanico gaveled the audience, several members of whom were attempting to speak.

“In addition to that, you have Cadillac coverage health insurance and lots of other perks,” commented Councilman Brennan. “The people have learnt about what is going on because of the overall environment that is going on in the State and in the country about public sector salaries and benefits. They say, ‘It is only 1.5, but what they neglect to talk about and what the taxpayers understand is that your benefits went up, on average, $3,000 last year. Well, you can say, ‘We didn’t get anything extra, we still get the same benefits,’ so you can look at it from that perspective, saying, ‘Well, we still want a raise. We deserve a raise because we didn’t get any additional benefits,’ or you can look at it from the taxpayers’ point of view and say, ‘Hey, wait a second, we are paying more and more, why should we pay all this additional when they are not contributing, and then give them a raise on top of that?

“Guys, you are in here en masse, you’re making a great showing for yourselves, but you know what? What’s out there in your community is people who are fed up with what is going on in terms of salaries and benefits. And here is Ms. King saying, ‘It’s out of control, it’s out of control everywhere, and we have to start somewhere. I think, quite frankly, that’s exactly what the people who signed the petition are saying by signing the petition.

“You know, the people who signed the petition … in all due respect … that is exactly what … that is exactly what is going on. So, and you know what, we look forward to an election in November because the idea that people could not exercise the statutory right to have a public question is going to be a prominent issue, I’m sure,” concluded Councilman Brennan.

“Thank you, John,” said Council President Maccanico. “Councilwoman Crippen would like to speak.”

“Yes, I have a question for either Mrs. Cindea or the public works guys,” Councilwoman Kathleen Crippen said. “In your contract for 2010, didn’t you get a zero percent raise?” she inquired.

“Yes, that’s so,” some of the public works employees responded.

“So, if we are up here saying ‘we have to start somewhere,’ didn’t you guys already start by getting a zero percent raise?”

“That’s the one thing that nobody mentions, that we gave up a raise and all the things we gave up as employees are not mentioned, ever,” responded one of the public works employees.

“Okay, thank you very much,” Councilwoman Crippen said.

“Thank you,” said Council President Maccanico, as the public works employees began to speak together.

“Can I respond to that, can I respond to that?” said Councilman Brennan, “No, I just want to make a point,” he explained as Councilman Maccanico plied his gavel again.

“Do you know … do you guys know … that last year, your health insurance coverage … hold on, hold on a second … ,” Councilman Brennan stumbled against the protests of the public works employees.

“John, you already explained about the healthcare,” warned Council President Maccanico, rapping his gavel lightly against the bench.

“No, I want to say something! Because this year, your healthcare insurance coverage went up 16% last year and the taxpayers are paying almost all of the increase. Your health insurance is going up 12% this year, okay? Twelve percent this year. The idea that … the idea that, ummm, … “

“That’s why we froze our salaries,” exclaimed one of the public works employees from the audience.

“You guys … you guys … you guys got an awful lot in addition to that,” Councilman Brennan said as Council President Maccanico gaveled for silence. “You got a $20,000 a year payout for 10 years,” said Councilman Brennan, referring to a clause in the current contract designed to encourage retirement and which applies only to 3 employees. “If I had that option, I would take a freeze, too. And that was a $2.8 million …”

“John, thank you, “gaveled Council President Maccanico. “Lynn, did you want to speak?” he then asked Councilwoman Kegelman.

“Two comments. No one is denying anyone’s right to have a petition. I could go out and put a petition tomorrow. It is the point of the petition and where it is going to get us. And the petition – it is a great exercise in venting your feelings and saying… it’s great to say, ‘I’m against any kind of raising of taxes.’ Well, I don’t want to pay taxes, either. If I could take a slide, that’s great. But we want service. We live in the high rent district, whether you want to admit it or not. And we kept this budget, our town budget, through all of your cooperation and your hard work, at zero.

“Right,” agreed some of the public works employees.

“The County came up $56.00 — $56.00 – and I don’t see these people out yelling, bitching, and complaining out at the County. It’s here. The people who render the service and even the comments – and I have nothing to do with it – but I was appalled that in this little paper …” the Councilwoman gestured to the e-mail blast circulated by Council candidate John Lewis “… it talked about the firemen. Our volunteer firemen who, the other day when we had a power outage and I could just shoot home, go right home, I didn’t have to worry about the lights being out. Who was standing there, manning all the street corners, directing traffic on a blistering hot day in the end of summer, but our volunteer firemen.

“And it’s great to say ‘get rid of them’ but how much would a paid fire department cost? How much would that cost? It is great to cast and say ‘get rid of these people’ by the very people that get a nice pension from their job that they rode on for so many years.”

“Thank you,” said Council Present Maccanico.

“No, wait, one other point,” Councilwoman Kegelman said. “A petition – you could have everyone that says nobody should get a salary – that could be your petition. It could pass. Nobody should pay any taxes. It could pass. It comes back to the people you elect, and that is why you have to elect good people. Because it is our thought, it is our feelings, but we are elected officials to make the decisions. We are not operating in a vacuum and we don’t have … we have a representative democracy. It’s not the old Greek democracy where everyone votes. You elect people and then those people go ahead to make the decisions to do the day-to-day responsible governing of our town. And, hopefully, we’ll be back on track after this next election,” finished the Councilwoman.

“Thank you,” said Council President Maccanico.

“If I could respond,” said Councilman Brennan.

“One minute, John,” Council President Maccanico said.

“If I could just respond to a couple of points,” insisted Councilman Brennan.

“Just a minute, John, no more response,” Council President Maccanico said firmly.

“No more response!?” Councilman Brennan said, incredulously.

“No more response,” reiterated Councilman Maccanico. “It is obvious that we are not getting anywhere, but we have to reach a consensus. How are we going to solve this?” he asked, looking around the dais.

“Yes,” said Councilwoman Cindea, “I also have … since John read that statute …”

“It’s an ordinance,” Councilman Brennan fired back.

“Yes, the ordinance. So I’m putting forth another resolution and it is a resolution to authorize the Spring Lake Heights chief financial officer to pay the members of the Spring Lake Heights Employees Association in accordance with the terms of their executed contract as of January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010. So, if you agree to that John, you are going to vote for this. Ready?,” Councilwoman Cindea asked.

“Let’s have a vote,” Councilman Brennan responded, “Let’s have a vote.”

“Are you going to vote first?,” a member of the audience asked.

“I always vote first,” Councilman Brennan replied, “My name’s Brennan.”

Councilwoman Cindea then asked Municipal Clerk Theresa Casagrande the clarify the procedure for presenting the resolution.

“I certainly can read the title and I will number it accordingly,” Mrs. Casagrande responded. “The resolution authorizes the Spring Lake Heights chief financial officer to pay the members of the Spring Lake Heights Employees Association in accordance with the terms of their executed contract dated January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010. I have a motion from Ms. Cindea on that.”

“I’ll second it,” said Councilwoman King.

“Discussion?,” asked Councilwoman Cindea.

“Yes, we’ll have a discussion on this now,” said Council President Maccanico. “Are you being serious about this?”

“It was debated on. What do you mean, am I being serious about it?,” Councilwoman Cindea asked quizzically.

“I mean have you given this …” began Council President Maccanico.

“Well, let me ask …” Councilman Brennan interrupted.

“John, you don’t have the floor,” Council President Maccanico said and turned towards Councilwoman Cindea. “I mean, have you given this thought? About this resolution?”

“Go ahead and read that statute again, John, that one statute,” Councilwoman Cindea asked.

“Yes, go ahead and read it, John,” Councilwoman Kegelman urged.

“I don’t think we need a resolution personally,” Councilman Brennan said, “But what the ordinance said and what Mr. Raffetto didn’t know and what apparently no one up here knew …”

Councilwoman Kegelman then called for a point of order. “No personal attacks against the attorney,” she said.

Councilman Brennan plowed ahead, reading, “Salary and wages shall be established by Mayor and Council by ordinance or negotiated contract with those group so recognized.”

Some of the public works employees in the audience began asking questions. “What’s that?,” Councilman Brennan asked them.

“So why weren’t we paid?,” asked the employees.

“It is quite clear that you should have been paid months ago,” Councilman Brennan stated, ignoring the fact he had mounted a petition drive to prevent the very raises he was now supporting. “And what I told you was true, is true.”

“So vote on it,” the public works employees said.

“I have no problem with voting,” Councilman Brennan said agitatedly. “I just said I have no problem with voting.”

“We’re not opening ourselves up for any kind of lawsuit, any kind of charge, any kind of State, in violation of our own ordinances?” Council President Maccanico asked.

“When I spoke with counsel on this,” Councilwoman Cindea stated, “The only law suit that we would get is by John and Tom.”

Councilman Brennan chortled, “Give me a break, please!”

“Now these guys know me and if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been working without a contract and a raise for two years. And I know you don’t want to hear it, but you can sit there and hear it. Alright? Now, I know you haven’t gotten your raises. You are working men, just like me. Now I understand that, but I’d be very uncomfortable voting to give you this without a salary and wage ordinance. Now, you are going to have to understand that and I hope you do,” Council President Maccanico told the public works employees.

“I think maybe we should get that legal opinion that you refused to have us get, Ms. Cindea,” Councilman Brennan piped up cheerfully. “And you will acknowledge, will you not, that you gave a strict order that no legal opinion should be rendered on this issue? You’ll acknowledge that in public now, won’t you? Do you have character enough to do that?”

The members of the audience gasped and whistled at Councilman Brennan’s audacious remark.
”Hey, John, excuse me,” Councilwoman King said.

“I just want to know, I just want to know,” he continued. “Will you acknowledge that you ordered … that the borough labor counsel … not to provide an opinion on this issue?”

“No, John, you are taking things completely out of context …” Councilwoman Cindea attempted to begin.

“No, no, I’m not. The language is very clear. Ms. Cindea, I’m going to … you know what, Ms. Cindea?” Councilman Brennan said.

Councilwoman Cindea explained to the audience, “What he did, what Councilman Brennan did, was that he went around OPRA’ing everybody’s e-mail and it caused havoc with our professionals and everybody in town hall.”

“No, no, no, not true, it’s not true,” protested Councilman Brennan.

“Yes, it is,” Councilwoman Crippen noted.

“I mean, she just wants to … she makes it up …she just wants to start something … she makes it up,” Councilman Brennan insisted, forgetting, perhaps, his recent OPRA request in which the Borough had to prepare literally hundreds of e-mail messages for his perusal.

Council President gaveled for silence. “Did we have a motion on this resolution?,” he asked.

“Yes, we do,” answered Councilwoman King.

“Did we have a second?” he asked.

“Yes, by Councilwoman King,” said Councilwoman Cindea.

Municipal Clerk Casagrande then took the roll call vote. Councilman Brennan, Councilwoman Crippen, Councilwoman Cindea, Councilwoman Kegelman, and Councilwoman King all voted yes.  Council President Maccanico.was the lone dissenting vote. The clerk then announced that the motion to pay the workers their contractual salary increases had passed.

“And I’d just like to say, I’m still opposed to your contract,” Councilman Brennan threw at the public works employees in the audience. “But once a contract is executed, it should be honored,” he declared, ignoring the fact that at previous meetings he had argued against upholding the contract.

 In out next issue:  How the Council voted to handle the management raises; the Voice of the People.

Council debates how to handle pay increase, Brennan rejects opportunity to retract 7.7% from police salaries; admits petition would not kill public works raises

Council President Gavino “Butch” Maccanico presided in the absence of Mayor Enright.over the Thursday, September 2 special Council meeting on the 2009 and 2010 Salary & Wage Ordinances. An additional discussion item on how to handle the payments of raises to contractual employees was also scheduled.

The first two items of business were the rescinding of the 2009 and 2010 Salary & Wage Ordinances. No member of the public wished to speak on either ordinance during the public hearings, and both ordinances were rescinded.

Prior to voting on the rescinding of the second ordinance, Councilwoman Patricia Cindea asked, “Can I make a comment? This salary & wage ordinance was nearly identical to the one that John Brennan introduced.”

Councilman John Brennan tried to interject that was not true, but Council President Maccanico used his gavel for the first of many times in the evening to silence him.

Borough attorney Fred Raffetto opined that when it was time to cast the vote, Council members should just cast the vote, that the discussion time had passed.

The Council President then moved to the one discussion item on the agenda, the payment of contractual employess. “Who would like to speak to it?” he asked.

Councilwoman Cindea indicated that she would begin the discussion, saying, “As far as the salary & wage ordinance, the original Salary and Wage Ordinance that John Brennan introduced included the raises for the employees, included raises for the borough workers, included a 3.85% raise for the tax collector.  This set of salary and wage ordinances were basically identical to the ones that john introduced when he was removed as the finance chair because he couldn’t get the budget or anything together. And the reason we capitulated is because we weren’t going to make an issue over the protected personnel. So we brought everybody down, the protected personnel, and we have two legal opinions that said they should be 3.85% but we brought them down to 1.5%.

“The only difference between this batch of Salary and Wage Ordinances and the ones that John introduced was that we brought the tax collector down from 3.85% down to 1.5% and we gave the superintendent of public works his contractual raise.of 2.5% and that’s the only difference and John went around and got signatures to basically defeat his own Salary & Wage Ordinance.

“I went about trying to figure out how we were going try to get through this,” Councilwoman Cindea continued. “We want to pay everyone with a contract. We have one individual on council who doesn’t; he wants to decide who gets the raises and who doesn’t get the raises. Unfortunately, we have a very small town, you only need 186 signatutes. You can get that in one night practically in Fairway Mews.

“And he is not telling people that these are contractual raises, he is not telling people these are wages that were awarded by contract. So we’re between a rock and a hard place. And he keeps going around doing it.

“I have been going around with legal counsel and nobody wants to give a legal opinion because a specific councilman threatens ethic charges and everything else every time he gets a chance.

“Right now, I have asked labor counsel to give us an opinion with regards to the contractual employees and he basically said he was not going to give it.

“And so we now also have people saying if we do pay everyone with a contract, that  John and Tom are going to file suit against the town, which they legally able to do, so we are going to have to wait until after the election. My understanding according to labor counsel is that if we wait until after the election We can do a separate Salary & Wage Oridinace for just the police and the public works, and If a petition is entered we can disregard it and just pay everybody. Then there would be a separate Salary & Wage Ordinance for everyone else which would be entered right around Christmas time, so that the signatures will have to be collected around Christmas and New Years’ if somebody really wants to spend their holidays like that.

“Unfortunately,” noted the Councilwoman, “We do have a lawsuit as everyone may know. Chief Petriken, who was supposed to be paid in May, has filed suit.

“The one option is, because we pay two collective bargaining units separately, differently, what counsel has actually recommended is that we bring the police employees down 7.7% immediately.

“I do have a resolution for John, if John really feels this is what we should do, John can enter this resolution to immediately bring the police down 7.7%. Because this is what he is doing going around getting these signatures and he is telling people we can do this. Do you know how many lawsuits are we going to have tomorrow morning if this motion gets entered and passed?

A deafeningly quiet pregnant pause of 17 seconds ensued before Council President Maccanico asked, “And this is on the advice of who, Patty? Did you get an opinion on this?”

“Yes,” the Councilwoman replied.

“Who, who, who?” Councilman Brennan demanded.

Council President Maccancio motioned Councilman Brennan to be silent.

Councilwoman Cindea continued, “And that is a legal opinion on what John has been requesting, that they are to get a zero increase across the board in 2009 and 2010, correct, John?”

“I want to know who you said gave this opinion,” Councilman Brennan again demanded.

“We can go into executive session,” Councilwoman Cindea said.

“You’ve already told everyone here you had an attorney tell you, I want to know who it was,” he demanded.

“Mr. Raffetto,” Councilwoman Cindea replied.

Borough Attorney Fred Raffetto said, “First of all, let me just clarify something. Ms. Cindea indicated that the council could disregard petitions. The council cannot disregard petitions and I just want to make sure that that is clarified. The statute 40a9-1.65 specifically affords the public to weigh in on a salary and wage ordinance. So if the governing body moves forward to enact any Salary and Wage Ordinance that provides for any increase in pay to confidential, managerial or executive employees and a petition is thereafter filed, and it is signed by the requisite number of voters, then the municipality cannot disregard it so I just want to clarify that statement.”

“No, that opinion was from Jamie Plosia,” said Councilwoman Cindea, referring to the Borough’s labor counse, “Jamie gave the opinion that ….”

“Whether a petition is filed either before election day or after election day, “ Mr. Raffetto commented, “You have a statutory responsibility that goes along with that and with regard to …

“Mr. Raffetto,” Councilman interrupted abruptly, “Is it your opinion that we should …

Councilwoman Kegelman called a point of order, asking, “Would you let Mr. Raffetto finish his commentary?”

“I would,” responded Councilman Brennan, “Except that Mr. Raffetto is not answering the question that was posed to him.”

Councilwoman Kegelman asked Council President Maccanico to intervene to allow the attorney to finish. The Council President gaveled Councilman Brennan for silence.

“Well, I don’t remember a question being posed to me,” began Mr. Raffetto. “Ms. Cindea noted that I had rendered an opinion to her, and with all due respect to Ms. Cindea, I want to make certain that what you are representing publicly is correct because I would like for you to clarify what it was that you are telling the public that I told you.”

“She told you it was your advice that this resolution to cut the police salaries for 2009 and 2010 should be enacted,” Councilman Brennan interjected.

“I am not making policy recommendations to the governing body. The governing body has the ability if you so choose to make that determination. As you know, this municipality has paid the police their increases under their  collective bargaining agreement since 2009 not withstanding that you don’t have Salary and Wage Ordinances that confirm and approve those salary increases that were set forth by contract. That was under a prior labor counsel’s advice to the governing body,” said Mr. Raffetto.

“And do you concur with that advice?,” Councilman Brennan asked.

“I have not rendered an opinion on that advice,” replied Mr. Raffetto.

“Well, what do we have you sitting here for if you are not rendering opinions,” sneered Councilman Brennan

“That is arrogant!,” said Councilwoman Kegelman.

“Stop it,” said Councilwoman King

“I am not your labor counsel, Mr. Brennan. You have labor counsel to advice you on those matters,” advised Mr. Raffetto, “You have the ability to roll those salaries back if you choose.”

“So the opinion that Ms. Cindea referenced that this is what should be done and she said that you, you never said …” Councilman Brennan cut off Mr. Raffetto.

“Should be rolled back…? Yes, I want to clarify the record that that is what was said,” Mr. Raffetto attempted to clarify the issue.

“So what was said?,” demanded Councilman Brennan. “Did you or did you not render an opinion?”

“In discussions with Ms. Cindea and this is now attorney-client, so I cannot get  into this in a public setting,” responded Mr. Raffetto.

“Oh, come on, Mr. Raffetto,” groaned Councilman Brennan. “You know what, well, I don’t …”

“This was advice I gave to my client and I’m sorry, I’m not getting into that in a public setting,” Mr. Raffetto replied.

“You’re not refuting it, and you’re also not willing to say what you’re opinion was, and in a public setting Ms. Cindea brings this out and you want to go into that back door and do it in secret. Well, I suggest we adjourn to that back door before I can respond to this charge of Ms. Cindea’s,” Councilman Brennan said.

“The question that was raised was the disparate treatment between two different collective bargaining associations,” Mr. Raffetto told him.

“Okay, and what is your opinion on that?” Councilman Brennan responded.

“I am not your labor council,” replied Mr. Raffetto.

“Did you give Ms. Cindea an opinion about that?” grilled Councilman Brennan.

Mr. Raffetto replied, “I gave her an option.”

“What was the option …what was the option…can I have the option,?” demanded Councilman Brennan.

Council President Maccanico again gaveled Councilman Brennan.

“If this council wanted to maintain parity between the two collective bargaining groups, the council could, if you so choose, you could cease paying the police the increase that you have been paying them since 2009. It was an option,” stated Mr. Raffetto.

Council President Maccanico again gaveled Councilman Brennan’s efforts to interrupt the attorney.

“Thank you, Mr. Raffetto,” Council President Maccanico said, “That is fine.”

“I’m not telling you you should do that. I’m not your labor counsel,” Mr. Raffetto offered as a final caution.

Councilwoman Cindea attempted to explain, “It was drafted as an option, John, because you are the one going around getting signatures to basically have a zero increase in 2009 and 2010, which we don’t have right now. I mean, right now, the police are getting paid 3.85%. And, you were the head of finance in January 2010 and they got paid again, 3.85%, you didn’t stop their pay at that point. If Your are going around getting signatures to not give the police their agreed-to 3.85% raise And are saying that you want I guess to nix a collective bargaining agreement, then you should make a motion to put this resolution forward.”

“So, Councilwoman Cindea, you are giving John the chance to introduce this resolution, is that what you are suggesting?,” asked Council President Maccanico.

“I’m suggesting that John should introduce the motion since he has been the one going around getting signatures, If he truly believes there should be a freeze in 2009 and 2010,” replied Councilwoman Cindea.

“Okay,” said Council President Maccanico, and he went on to recognize Councilman Brennan.

“A couple of things. Ms. Cindea has a habit of telling people what it is I think, what it is I say, and what it is I do and she is so… in her mind, these things take place, and not in reality, because she misinterprets …” began Councilman Brennan.

“Mr. Brennan,” said Council President Maccanico, “Just give us an answer yes or no on this resolution.”

“No, I’m going to respond to the detailed accusations that she made against me and I have a right under Robert’s Rules to do that,” Councilman Brennan responded.

“No personal attacks,” admonished Council President Maccanico.

“Well, I’m responding in kind. She made personal attacks against me and I’m going to respond as I deem appropriately. She said that this ordinances that were just repealed, were identical ordinances to ones I had previously introduced. And that is a false statement.

“She said that labor counsel will not give an opinion about whether or not the public works … And that is why the public works guys are here, if the public works guys should be paid or not paid. The truth of the matter is, the truth of the matter is, there is in writing Ms. Cindea’s instructions to labor council not to give that opinion. That is the truth. It’s in writing, that’s the truth. She instructed him not to give the opinion and that was some time ago.”

Councilwoman Cindea motioned to be recognized.

“No, no, no, no …” said Councilman Brennan, waving away Council President Maccanico. “I have a lot more.”

“Now, Mr. Raffetto says, Mr. Raffetto, our borough attorney for the last … I don’t know how many years … has said that there has been disparate treatment and because there is no Salary and Wage Ordinance in place, neither the police nor the public works should be getting paid. You heard him say that.  Well, guess what folks, our ordinances on the books say the following with respect to salary and wages. This is section 16-2.4 entitled salary and wages, A.) Establishment, One — salary and wages shall be established by the mayor and council by ordinance, or a negotiated contract with those groups so recognized.

“So, if you understand the significance of that … you guys should have been paid  …the police … the reason why I did not tell the police they shouldn’t be paid back in January was because I understood that they had a collective bargaining agreement and that our ordinances say that salary and wages can be established by negotiated contracts with those groups so recognized.

“The only reason the public works did not get the same treatment because Ms. Cindea as finance chair ordered council not to render an opinion so she could whip up public reaction to the petition that was going around in the hopes of getting lawsuits and objections. That is exactly what happened, folks.”  Councilman Brennan concluded.

The audience broke into gales of laughter at this statement.

Council President began gaveling for silence.

“How could you do petitions to stop this, then? How come you did the petition to stop it? You did two petitions!” some of the public works employees cried out from the audience.

“There will be no comments from the audience,” the Council President stated.

“The petitions were pursuant to a statute which provides the public the right to have a say,” Councilman Brennan explained in a smarmy voice.

“But we had a signed contract,” said one of the public works employees from the audience.

“No kidding,” said Councilman Brennan. “And you had the right under the ordinances …  if you had capable competent borough council … and a good faith effort to … “

“Please, stop the personal attacks, stop it,” said Mr. Raffetto.

The audience burst in a general outcry and Council President Maccanico began gaveling them.

“You know what, Mr. Raffetto, I think everyone in this room saw you don’t know what you are doing,” Councilman Brennan sneered. The audience members grumbled and spoke heatedly to one another.

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s a state statute that outweighs the local ordinance,” Mr. Raffetto said.

The general outcry in the audience grew in volume and Council President Maccanico again pounded his gavel.

“With all due respect, Mr. Raffetto,” said Councilman Brennan in a snotty tone of voice, “The state statutes … you don’t even know what the state statutes say about the peition.”

“It requires the adoption of salaries and wages by ordinance,” Mr. Raffetto replied.

Council President Maccanico then gaveled Councilman Brennan, saying: “John, if I have to remove you I will.”

“For what?” Councilman Brennan innocently asked.

“Personal attacks,” replied the Council President. The audience burst into loud applause at this point. Council President Maccanico again gaveled for silence.

“You know …” Councilman Brennan began.

“As I stated before,” Council President Maccanico explained, “If you want to discuss, to try to resolve this matter or if you want to continually argue back and forth and make personal attacks, is it my right to suspend this meeting, Mr. Raffetto?”

“Absolutely,” replied the attorney.

“If we have any outbursts, I will suspend the meeting, so if we want to continue, let’s be civil about it. Does everyone understand that?,” inquired Council Presdint Maccanico. Looking around, he continued, “Lynn, do you want to speak?”

“Yes, I would like to speak,” replied Councilwoman Kegelman. “I disagree with the content of Councilman Brennan’s comments. First of all, about Mrs. Cindea. Mrs. Cindea spent a lot of time negotiating the public works contract. She came up with a consensus. We couldn’t get it approved, we would not pass the Salary and Wage Ordinance without signing off on that contract, it was fair, but it went down.”

“Mrs. Cindea has done everything to move forward. She talked in open council meetings about having a freeze for next year due to our economic times. But we were looking at having the public works, at that time it was a 2.5% raise … With a change in the committees, I got involved and did some other negations, myself and Council President Maccanico, for the public works, and we came up with an agreeable 1.5%. Mrs. Cindea took over as finance chair.

“And there was a time when Councilman Brennan was agreeable to a 25 or 30 dollar raise in taxes and that was before all the nonsense started. And it is a lot of political nonsense … And I feel sorry for you, the public works, and also the police because you are being batted around as the villains. And you are our work force. And a lot of the nonsense goes back to we are a small town, and a lot of these personal vendettas go  to people who went back to high school. I’m amazed at some of this nonsense.”

“Nonsense,” Councilwoman Cindea agreed.

“But we have to put up with it,” Councilwoman Kegelman continued. “A lot of it is playing political games. It is all about how it reads. Mr. Raffetto is an excellent attorney, an excellent attorney. We are privileged to have him here. He speaks with reason and he never oversteps his bounds. We have labor counsel. Our labor counsel chose not to render an opinion. Mr. Brennan, as all attorneys can do, can make an argument on any side of the coin, and he is playing verbal games. Which he has every right to do.

“We are running around with these petitions because it make good political fodder and we will continue. And now at this point, we are going to suspend all salary and wage ordinances. It is not going to be a political issue. Just think about how it would have been if we let it go on. Now let’s just stop it and in November we’ll have an election and then good people hopefully will be elected and then we move on. But that’s it, it’s putting to bed all the election nonsense.

“And a lot of it is so, so nearly … it’s magical how you can twist and maneuver the facts.

I’ll read something,” said Councilwoman Kegelman, opening a sheet of folded paper. “There is a special meeting tomorrow at 7:00 PM – this is written by one of the candidates who is on the other side I’m on – at 7:00 PM in Borough Hall to unveil a new round of salary and wage ordinances … well, we’re not, we’re just rescinding. We can only guess what they have in store for us now. Let’s recap. Brennan came in with a zero salary increase and was promptly deposed and exiled. John, you’re here, you weren’t exilted!”

“No jokes,” cautioned Council President Maccanico with a smile.

“Well, he wasn’t, I’m just reading from here,” Councilwoman Kegelman pointed out, continuing, “Mr. Brennan at the best time was $35.00 over. He didn’t come in with a zero budget, Mrs. Cindea came in with a zero budget. After a lot of nonsense that transpired between Point A and Point B.

“Also, the author of this and his compadres, they talked about surplus and utilizing the surplus and how we were being irresponsible and I took that to heart. Because Mr. Brennan in his budget had a surplus number, and we were tweaking it down and surplus, you know, because of return on investment and all of those good things that occur, surplus doesn’t always regenerate itself and everyone is having these problem, all of the towns, at the same rate.

“So I took it to heart, I do listen, even if I don’t always agree with all the people who are speaking. And I went along with the vote to increase the surplus, but Mr. Brennan and his group …”

“Mr. Maccanico,” Councilman Brennan interrupted. “Am I really going to have to tolerate these repeated ‘Mr. Brennan this, and Mr. Brennan that’ that are false accusations? Or as chair, would you have the decency to stop this?

“Please, I’m asking you please to stop this,” Councilman Brennan begged, “You are making false statements. You know what, Ms. Kegelman, you have been, you have been making repeated false statements. You said my budget was $35.00 over, that’s not true, no, that’s not true, that is absolutely not true, no, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not.” Councilman Brennan’s voice escalated upwards petulantly as Council President Maccanico sought to quiet him.

“You know what, the Coast Star reporter has been here every single time and she knows,” commanded Councilman Brennan, “And everybody who has been here knows, I never … I absolutely am … I’m relying upon a neutral person … a neutral person …”

“Mr. Brennan, I am still speaking, I have not finished. I have had to listen to you go on for hours,” Councilwoman Kegelman said.

“No, Ms. Kegelman, at least I am stating facts, the truth,” replied Councilman Brennan.

“Mr. Brennan,” gaveled Council President Maccanico, warningly.

Councilwoman Kegelman continued reading the e-mail message that had been circulated to residents, “She came back with another 1.5% increase and another petition and a withdrawal – the first said that Cindea came in with a 3.85% increase which prompted the petition and squashed the ordinance. The 3.85% increase was on several confidential employees and was it was all covered at a zero increase. Correct? Am I wrong about that?

“Everything was covered,” stated Councilwoman Cindea.

“So they are taking a number and they are manipulating,” Councilwoman Kegelman continued. “They are playing games. It is like musical facts. This goes out on one of these wonderful web sites and so people read it and think this is the way the world is. And nothing against the Coast Star, but the Coast Star is one young lady who probably has her viewpoints, and I’m not sure, she lives in town and what her alliances are. She has her views and she has every right to her views, but I’m not saying that everything you read in the Coast Star is factual. It can be manipulated. You can go and get the tapes and listen here.

“All I’m saying is that I feel sorry for you workers because you are being political pawns. And for Mr. Brennan to come and say … he has been na-da, we don’t have to honor contracts, we don’t have to honor this, we don’t have to honor that …”

“Mr. Maccanico, that is another charge that is false,” protested Councilman Brennan.

“All I can say is, after the election things should cool down a little,” Councilwoman Kegelman wound up.”

“Can I just respond?,” asked Councilman Brennan and Council President Maccanico recognized him.

“Let me say this again to the public workers work force,” Councilman Brennan expounded.” You will find out that it is absolutely true that there is an ordinance on the books that says, ‘Salaries and wages shall be established by the mayor and council by ordinance, or by negotiated contract when so recognized.’ I voted against your contract, I was against your contract for a lot of reasons, particularly the buy-out and you guys know that and I think that was imprudent.

“But, as soon as that contract was executed, you had the right to be paid, and now you should be asking the question, why wasn’t I paid at that point? And they’ve been saying it is because of the petition. But the petition only effects the salary and wage ordinance, but our ordinances say you can be paid pursuant to the ordinance or negotiated contract, so you don’t need to have a salary and wage ordinance in place to be paid once your contract had been executed.

“And it is a true fact that Ms. Cindea, in writing, not once, but twice, ordered the borough labor counsel not to render – excuse me, I don’t want to misspeak – she ordered the borough labor counsel once not to render an opinion on this specific issue about whether or not the disparate agreement between you and the police was unfair. That’s in writing, okay, and it is going to prove out to be true.

“Additionally, she wrote to the Department of Community Affairs in Trenton bragging about the fact that she had told labor counsel not to render that opinion.  So if you are upset about not being paid … and it is my belief, only my believe, that … that the reason why she was doing that was to aggravate you and upset you so you would be here against the petition.”

Several individuals in the audience whistled incredulously at this statement.

“Now having said that,” Councilman Brennan quickly continued, “With respect to the petition, what is going on with respect to the petition, so that you will understand, is that throughout New Jersey, and probably the country, people are upset with what public sector salaries and benefits are. You all know that.

“The petition was intended to have the effect of allowing the people to have a say, that’s all, nothing more. The petition law does not by law … know what, you can shake your head, but I’m telling you, if you read the petition law, it does not, by law, what would happen, okay, what happens, okay, if you had a public question and the people voted down the Salary & Wage Ordinances?

“It comes back to the Council to have to pass a salary and wage ordinance. It doesn’t kill your raises. Your raises were pursuant to negotiated contracts and you should have been being paid by our own ordinances for months.”

In other words, the Borough form of government in New Jersey has non-binding referendum. No matter how the public voted on a ballot question, the Council would still have the ability to ignore the voting results and pass whatever they liked. Councilman Brennan’s contention that, “it doesn’t kill your raises” seems to indicate that even if voter’s voted against wage increases for the public works employees, they still would get their raises.

This, however, appears to be in direct conflict with Councilman Brennan’s statement at the July 26, 2010 Council meeting, when he pointed out: “A contract isn’t the final word … does the contract control? Or does the vote of the people control? And I am on the side of the vote of the people.” This statement would seem to indicate that Councilman Brennan, as Councilwoman Kegelman pointed out earlier in the discussion, does not believe the Council needs to honor contracts.

“Thank you, John,” said Council President Maccanico.

Members of the public works in the audience immediately began to ask for clarification. Councilwoman Kegelman motioned to them and said, “Just wait. You will have your turn.”

“And I also … excuse me, excuse me,” Councilman Brennan said, trying to be heard over the crowd.

Council President Maccanico again plied the gavel. “Mr. Brennan, time is up,” he said.

Councilwoman Kegelman then requested, “I would ask through the Chair if Mr. Brennan will articulate how many times he has spoken in open meetings that your negotiating bargaining association, your public works bargaining group, is not a union and is not a recognized bargaining group.”

“Are you asking me that question now,” Councilman Brennan inquired.

“I am asking you how many times,” confirmed Councilwoman Kegelman.

“I have never said in a public meeting that the … I have never said in a public meeting that your group is not a negotiating … now hold on, what I have said, just so you want to know, what I have said, behind closed doors, alright, no, I’m not the one who wants people behind closed doors, and I’m willing to say anything, I’m the one that wants all the business done out here, guys. I am. And you know what, you can argue, you can argue until you are … That’s the truth, I want open government, I don’t even go to most of the damned things because of the fact that I don’t even like the idea that they are doing anything in secret. Now, what I have said, because she has raised the issue, what I have said is that there is a distinction between having, and those of you who know me, have urged you, who know me, know what my position is with respect to whether you should have a union or not. So, I am not … don’t … she … no, no … you know what, Ms. … Mr. Maccanico, she is calling me a liar on the record. Are you going to take some sort of action?

Tune in again tomorrow for further coverage of this story. Council votes to grant the public works their raises; Brennan votes ‘no’ on the police chief’s salary increase.