To the Editor:
I came across your recent statement challenging my service on Council as "false and baseless." Better role-models would urge caution in answering what is truly baseless criticism of my work and ideas, as it could otherwise leave no time for constructive work. “But since you are [people] of genuine goodwill and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here…" (M. L. King, 1963) on Council, since you have been influenced by those who argue against fulfilling one’s responsibilities as a Council member. Your responsibility should be to your community and not a party.
I have had the honor of serving as Council President during Betsy Driver’s first year as mayor. 2019 Was a challenging year for the Borough Council:
- This Council commissioned a fiscal impact study, citing it as necessary for “protecting the Borough, and important for advancing negotiations to bring the [Courthouse Square] project to fruition.” on March 11, 2019; however,
- This Council then had to force the issue to bring the fiscal impact study to light on October 15, 2019 - seven months later;
- Mayor Driver announced on October 25, 2019, that the Council would finally receive an incomplete summary that would only be made public, conveniently, after the 2019 election;
- The Council voted down the Mayor’s unilateral attempt to bond and purchase property on Central Avenue for a new police headquarters without Council’s input, or knowledge until the last minute; the building was to include a corner office suite for the Mayor complete with bathroom and conference room; while none of the expenditures for professional services spent by Mayor Driver were ever presented to the Council for prior approval;
- This Council voted for a shared services study, as a means to evaluate our budget and in preparation for contract negotiations; when the Mayor attempted to block, delay, and even implied that it would require overtime expense, the Council reissued the directive and held Mayor and Council responsible for assuring that the data was collected...without added expense and it was collected;
- This Council rejected the Mayor’s resolution and attempt to silence me regarding the Courthouse Square development; this was more spending without Council authorization; and
- The 2019 Council initially blocked payment of unauthorized spending by the Mayor which she later transferred to the escrow account of the Courthouse Square developer, which remains unreimbursed...that is, Borough taxpayers have paid.
You wrote that you “do not wish to add to the incessant debate over the blue line…[and instead] are focusing on the constructive work of making sure Flemington Borough’s government functions properly,” and yet you call attention to the blue line to avoid the real issue which is your continued retroactive, rubber-stamp approval. That is not how government functions properly.
Last year the Council worked hard to hold the Mayor accountable. Mayor Driver appropriated public funds without Council authorization, continued the pattern of backroom dealing for which she herself criticized her predecessor, and worse, she intentionally divided and manipulated our community. While the year before, the Flemington Democratic Committee wrote that “Councilman Harris definitely has Flemington’s best interest as his primary concern.” Meanwhile, during my three-year term on Council I have not changed.
I previously supported Betsy Driver. There needs to be checks and balances; without a strong Council to keep the balance of power as intended by State law, Mayor Driver will continue to make backroom deals and abuse her power which she takes from you, spend our tax dollars without proper authorization, and worse, divide our community rather than heal it. You have proven my point, repeatedly.
You have accomplished nothing except raise taxes and criticize me for doing my job. You have been elected to lead. Lead.
Councilman, Flemington Borough