ROSELLE, NJ — Wednesday night’s Borough Council meeting was a highly contentious affair, with the governing body authorizing a resolution terminating the Public Information Officer (PIO) Kathy Lloyd.
The resolution carried, with a 4-2 vote in favor of firing Lloyd. Council President Denise Wilkerson, 2nd Ward Councilman Brandon Bernier, 4th Ward Councilwoman Cindy Thomas and 5th Ward Councilman John Fortuna voted in favor of the resolution, while 3rd Ward Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson and 1st Ward Councilman Richard Villeda voted against the resolution, while.
Councilwoman Johnson had strong words for the council’s decision to fire Lloyd, insinuating the decision is part of a broken system of political gamesmanship on the council.
“I myself did not support Kathy Lloyd when you guys insisted on hiring her with our former Mayor Christine Dansereau,” said Councilwoman Johnson. “Out goes Chris, and out goes Kathy, who’s next?”
Those who voted in favor of the resolution said it was a financial decision and that the position of PIO was never intended to be permanent.
“This was not a decision made for personal or political reasons. I can say that hundred percent. It was definitely not a decision made with COVID in mind because she was sick. This process had started in October,” said Councilman John Fortuna. “This is due to economics, and again, the chance to save thirty thousand dollars. And you say, ok, well $30,000 out of a budget that's like $40-plus million, drop in the bucket, right? Well, it's $30,000, and $30,000 is a lot of money.”
The consent agenda also saw the borough award a contract to Jaffe Communications, Inc. “to provide Media/Public Information Consulting Services for the Borough Not to Exceed $35,000.00,” according to the agenda.
“It was a provisional position; we had been using Jaffe for years," Fortuna said. “All we’re doing is reversing that, we’re going back to Jaffe."
Jaffe Communications Inc. was responsible for providing public information services to the borough before the hiring of Lloyd as PIO.
Lloyd, who spoke during the public portion of the meeting, has hired a lawyer and said she would be building a case against the borough.
During the public portion of the meeting, she claimed she found out about her termination while hospitalized for COVID-19.
Lloyd alleges she was in communication with the Borough Administrator during this time, letting him know that she had tested positive for COVID-19. She claimed the only response she received from the Borough Administrator was a communication asking for her Zoom password.
“When I had told him that I had tested positive, his only response was ‘OK give me the zoom password,’" Lloyd said. "Within three minutes he locked me out of the account.
Lloyd's wife, Doreen Rinaldo, came out in support of her spouse during the public portion of the meeting.
“Each and every one who voted against her should be totally ashamed and embarrassed,” said Rinaldo. “She worked through COVID. She worked through a Census. She worked 24-hours a day. She was concerned about doing the best job possible for this borough.”
Mayor Donald Shaw came out in support of Lloyd.
“I’m not ok with the process of the handling of our PIO,” said Mayor Shaw. “I don’t think the right thing was done in the right way.”
During his comments at the end of the meeting, Shaw said he had spoken to Council President Denise Wilkerson back on Dec. 31. Shaw claimed he suggested bringing Jaffe Communications on to help Lloyd with flyers.
The next regular Council meeting is to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb., 17. You can find a calendar on the Borough website HERE.
Editor's Note: Kathy Lloyd is the former franchisee of TAPinto Roselle/Roselle Park. Jaffe Communications, Inc. is the current franchisee of TAPinto New Brunswick.