South Orange Trustees Appoint Interim Village Clerk in Contentious Meeting

August 29, 2013 at 9:34 PM

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – In a contentious meeting of the Board of Trustees on Thursday night, a resolution appointing current Deputy Village Clerk, Shinell Smith, as acting village clerk was passed by a vote of 3-2--but not before a number of pre-emptive resolutions were raised by Trustees Sheena Collum and Steve Schnall and then rejected by Trustees Walter Clarke, Deborah Davis Ford and Walter Levison.

Trustee Mark Rosner arrived late to the meeting due to NJ Transit train delays and missed the vote.

The outcome leaves the question of whether Village Clerk Robin Kline will remain in her position until the end of September as she had been asked to do, or if she will be asked to leave sooner.  Village attorney Steven Rother advised Kline to speak with Village Administrator Barry Lewis about that after the meeting.

Sign Up for E-News

The meeting began with a procedural motion by Schnall to “reconsider the reappointment of the current Municipal Clerk at a future meeting and table the resolution at hand.”  Collum seconded the motion.  Schnall cited additional information that has come to light since the Board’s last Executive Session, as well as rising public concern about the resolution and a written request from Kline to discuss the matter further before a decision is made.  The motion was denied by Clarke, Davis Ford and Levison.

The floor was opened to public comment, and resident Bob Landau asked the board to “reconsider what you are doing.” He called Kline an excellent public employee and to let her go over the issue of tenure is “an egregious form of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Landau went on to question how the village job posting asks for candidates with five years of experience, meaning they probably have tenure, so to ask them to come here, knowing they will be out of a job in three years, “is crazy,” according to Landau.

Resident and business owner Ben Salmon spoke of his “dozens of experiences with Robin Kline over the last three years," and said he "would rate every one of them an A-plus.”  He said he has "never heard a single word of negative feedback” about Kline and asked, “Why would we be willing to lose an exceptional employee because all of a sudden we don’t believe in tenure, and we have never heard this before?”

Sixty-year resident, and former president of the League of Women Voters of South Orange, Edith Oxfeld, decided to attend the meeting after reading the story about the clerk situation in the News Record, and was surprised to learn the meeting was being held on this night when she called Village Hall to ask when it would be.

She criticized the board for not providing adequate notice about the meeting, and terming the board “cruel” for choosing to let Kline go with no cause other the tenure issue.

Attorney Rother elaborated on the tenure process and claimed that despite the rules on paper appearing to give municipalities the right to fire tenured employees for good cause, state case law precedents shows it is actually extremely difficult to do so.

At that point the resolution appointing Smith as acting clerk was read, but before another trustee could move to vote on it, Collum interjected a motion to recess until such time as Trustee Rosner could arrive to participate in the vote.  It was seconded by Schnall, who elaborated that in a “hotly debated” issue, the board should want to consider the votes of all the trustees. The motion was then denied by the remaining three trustees.

Collum then moved to strike the resolution under consideration, which was again seconded by Schnall and denied by Clarke, Davis Ford and Levison.

Levison then called for a vote on the resolution to install Smith, which passed with the same 3-2 split in the Board.

In the second round of public comment, Kline stepped to the podium and asked if she was to remain until Sept. 30 and was advised to speak with Administrator Barry Lewis.

Oxfeld returned to the podium and asked for a reason why Kline should be fired, adding, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Landau also returned to admonish the board for letting a philosophical opposition to tenure put the township in the position of having to look for a new Village Clerk every three years, calling it “one of the stupidest decisions I have seen from a Board of Trustees in a while.”

In answer to Oxfeld’s demand for a reason for the decision, Village President Alex Torpey deferred to attorney Rother, who went on at length about the “Rice Notice” process, which gave Kline the option of having the discussions about her position held in public or private sessions.  In past months, Kline opted for private sessions, and anything discussed during those meetings is prohibited from being discussed at a future public session like this one.

Kline said she was not informed about tonight’s meeting in time to meet the 48-hour Rice Notice deadline to respond to the public/private question.  She had requested private discussions in the past to allow unfettered debate among the Trustees.  She said that she wrote to and spoke to the Board and Administrator in March to discuss her future with the township and never received a reply.  She also said that she was informed there would be no Executive Session on July 22, only to learn later that there was and the purpose was to discuss her position.  She called that decision by the Board “disingenuous.”

At this point, Rosner arrived and Collum brought forth a motion to reconsider the resolution that had just been adopted in order to give Rosner the opportunity to vote on it.  Schnall seconded, and the motion was denied by Clarke, Davis Ford, and Levison, with Rosner abstaining, saying that since he had not been present for the discussion prior to the vote, he should not participate.

After the meeting, Rosner confirmed that he did not want the original vote reconsidered when he had not heard the discussion around it, but added, “I don’t think it would have changed the outcome."

Schnall said, “I am very disappointed. I was hoping this board would take a look at this new information, as well as the groundswell of citizen interest in the outcome and take the opportunity to reconsider.”

Collum said, “I want to thank Robin Kline for her extraordinary service to this village. She will be greatly missed.”

Kline declined to make a comment, but has submitted this open letter to South Orange Villagers.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News


December 1: Maplewood's 'Coffee with a Cop'

From Maplewood's "Coffee with a Cop" event in October, Auxiliary police officers, and mother-and-daughter, Reserve. Sgt. Kimberly Tortoriello, and Daniele Tortoriello.

South Orange Police Blotter - Burglary to Garage Reported on Irving Ave.

November 30, 2016

South Orange Police Blotter as of November 30

Burglary to Garage - An Irving Ave. resident reported that between 10 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29, unknown actor(s) entered her garage and stole a white & blue, 24 speed Trek bicycle. No other property appears to be missing from the garage. At approximately 10:52 a.m., the bicycle was found by a Centre Street ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Burglary and Arrest Reported

November 26 - At approximately 8:30 p.m., officers responded to a home on Essex Ave. on a reported burglary.  Five juveniles were located in the area, were identified as the burglars, and were taken into custody.  Two females age 17 from Newark, 15 and 17 year old males from Newark, and a 17 year old male from Irvington were all arrested and charged with the burglary.

November ...

South Orange Health & Fitness Challenge is Back with SOFit17

December 1, 2016

From Kate Schmidt, South Orange Recreation Department

The Village of South Orange is once again leading the charge for a healthier year ahead with SOFit17, the 3rd annual South Orange Health and Fitness Challenge. 

The theme of SOFit17 is the “Hundred Day Challenge” beginning January 20 and ending April 29. As in the past 2 years, community residents are invited ...

Maplewood Glee Club to Perform Winter Concert on Saturday, Dec. 3

The following is from the Maplewood Glee Club Facebook page

Featuring local a Cappella sensation SOULFEGE (Millburn High School) and audience favorites The BACKLOGS (MIT alumni quartet).

If you’re looking for a fun way to kick off the holiday season, the Maplewood Glee Club may have just the ticket. The group, currently celebrating its 70th year of singing, will perform its annual ...

4th and Valley Public Forum on Nov. 30

The following is from the South Orange Village Center Alliance "Village Vibe" email on Nov. 23:

You may have already heard about a proposed new mixed use development at the corner of 4th and Valley Streets. This new proposed development would include 100 apartments, including some affordable units, as well as approximately 10,000 square feet of new retail space. The developer, ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, December 3, 10:00 AM

The Salvation Army, Montclair

The 24th Annual Holiday Art & Craft Show

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back Home & Garden

Sat, December 3, 12:00 PM

Springfield Free Public Library, Springfield

The Raptor Trust presents All About Owls

Arts & Entertainment Education


Sun, December 4, 10:00 AM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

American Red Cross Run for the Red in Millburn; ...

Obituary: Murray H. Ross

November 27, 2016

Murray H. Ross

Born in Glen Cove, NY on Jan. 17, 1926
Departed on Nov. 21, 2016 and resided in Maplewood, NJ

Murray H. Ross, 90 of Maplewood formerly of Carlisle, PA died at Winchester Gardens on Mon, Nov 21, 2016. 

Murray was born in Glen Cove, Long Island. He lived most of his life in Cranford, NJ before moving to Carlisle, PA. He moved to Maplewood 2 ...

Obituary: Jennifer Feinberg, Teacher at South Mountain School

Jennifer Feinberg

September 28, 1969 - November 7, 2016


Jennifer Stulberger Feinberg, a life-long resident of Livingston, NJ, died unexpectedly on November 7, 2016 at the age of 47. 

Jennifer, known as Jenn, was born on September 28, 1969 in Boston, MA to Dr. Eugene and Mrs. Audrey Stulberger. Jenn graduated from Livingston High School, Muhlenberg College and Bank Street ...

Search for Next Director of Special Services & Survey

November 28, 2016

The following was sent via email on Nov. 28 to the South Orange Maplewood School District Community 

Dear South Orange & Maplewood School Community,

Dr. Leroy Nunery of Atlantic Research Partners is the consultant selected to lead our search for the new Director of Special Education. The following timeline has been developed to lead us to a recommendation to the ...

South Orange Rescue Squad: We're There in Your Time of Need, But We Need Your Help

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

All of us at the South Orange Rescue Squad truly appreciate the generous support that we have received from residents in South Orange, Maplewood and the surrounding communities throughout the last few years.

Maplewood was formerly served by the Maplewood Volunteer First Aid Squad, which has disbanded after 41 years of honorable service. We are now the only ...

What to Look for in a Real Estate Lawyer

Although real estate law doesn't sound as exciting as criminal court cases, having the right real estate lawyer can make or break a deal. You should take the time to find a good one.

What qualities should you look for in a good attorney?

Do you personally know anyone who has used the attorney and has had a good experience? Does the lawyer have mostly positive online reviews? ...

Death of Missing Montclair Woman Ruled Homicide

December 2, 2016

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The death of Sarah Butler, whose body was located in the area of Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange on Thursday after being missing for more than a week, was determined to be a homicide by the New Jersey Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, according to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray and Montclair Police Chief Todd Conforti.

Essex County ...

Concerned Citizens of Vauxhall Association Elects Officers

December 3, 2016

UNION, NJ – The nomination and election of officers was the business at hand Wednesday night at a meeting of the newly formed Concerned Citizens of Vauxhall and Vicinity Civic Association.

The purpose of the Association, as outlined in the Constitution and Bylaws, is to build a wholesome community, create an active community spirit, and encourage government and citizen cooperation, ...

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger Talks Local Travel Security at Seton Hall University

December 1, 2016

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger discussed the future of Newark International Airport and local travel security as a guest lecturer at Seton Hall on Tuesday night.

Neffenger spoke about his career as head of the TSA, as well as the success of the administration’s Instagram account @TSA, which has over 500,000 followers. He cited rehabilitating the public ...

Nearly 1.25 Million New Jerseyans Expected to Travel Over Thanksgiving: AAA

NEW JERSEY -- AAA Travel forecasts 48.7 million Americans, including nearly 1.25 million in New Jersey, will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s one million more travelers than last year, representing a 1.9 percent increase over 2015, and the most Thanksgiving holiday travelers since 2007, when 50 million people traveled.

This year’s ...

It’s a Wonderful Life – The Radio Play “POPS UP” in Union Township, Hosted by Unity Bank.

December 2, 2016

POP UP THEATER – performances in unexpected places -- continues in Union’s Downtown Center when The Theater Project presents its annual holiday production IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: The Radio Play at Unity Bank.  The Theater Project will recreate the Lux Radio Theater circa 1947 as twelve actors, a musician and one extremely overworked sound technician prepare ...

Studio 509 of Maplewood Offers Free Dance Fusion Workshop at The Connection in Summit

The Connection is hosting a free Dance Fusion Workshop on Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., led by Guada Bas and Bethany Pettigrew, co-owners of Studio 509 in Maplewood.

Dance Fusion is a mix of ballet, jazz and modern for the mover that enjoys challenging the mind and body! The class begins with a center floor warm up, continues with across ...

Studio 509 Hosts 2016 Sip and See Trunk Show on Dec. 2

Get a head start on your holiday shopping!  Studio 509 is hosting a “Sip and See Trunk Show” featuring several local entrepreneurs, wine, and nibbles, on Friday, December 2, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Studio 509 is a Maplewood fitness studio that prides itself on fostering a community that cares about health and fitness and each other. Last year, the trunk show was conceived as a ...