SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Common Council voted Monday to rescind its November 3 censure of Councilman Michael Vernotico for his actions in connection with closed session discussions concerning allegations of impropriety against Councilman Tom Getzendanner.
As first reported by TheAlternativePress.com, this summer, City Solicitor Barry Osmun, at the urging of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, sent Getzendanner a letter that his reported attempt to get a city employee to pre-date a check for a cat license fee to help a constituent avoid a late charge “could be construed as official misconduct.”
Councilman Vernotico last month issued a press release in which he reported the alleged attempt to have the check pre-dated and an attempt by Getzendanner to “fix the dates” on his billings in order to “get an illegal reimbursement.”
In the censure resolution that he introduced November 3, Councilman Richard Madden criticized Vernotico for “sharing information regarding an interaction” between Getzendanner and the city employee that had been discussed in a September 7 closed session of the governing body.
The resolution also criticized Vernotico for “branding Councilman Getzendanner a common criminal,” when Getzendanner had not been convicted of a crime.
At Monday’s meeting Madden said one of the major reasons for his censure motion was the disclosure of actions involving a city employee, which is a personnel matter to be dealt with in closed session.
He seconded Councilmember Ellen Dickson’s motion to withdraw the censure, but sought a “quid pro quo” from Vernotico about his remarks concerning Getzendanner,
Vernotico apologized for any of his remarks “that Councilman Getzendanner found offensive.”
He did, however, say his actions in disclosing the closed session discussions were correct because the matters had been disposed of by the council and they properly should have been disclosed to the public.
Getzendanner, who on November 3, apologized if his discussion with the city employee about his constituents had been misunderstood by the employee, again apologized to the employee on Monday.
He said he should have, instead, spoken to the employee’s boss and should have questioned her boss about his concerns that some residents were being penalized while 90% of the city’s cats were unlicensed.
The councilman also apologized to his fellow councilmembers and the residents for the controversy his actions caused.
Council President Dave Bomgaars also said he should have allowed governing body members more time in closed session to discuss the Getzendanner matter.
Residents Phyllis Sang, Guy Haselmann and Tom Graham also said the council acted incorrectly in censuring Vernotico.
Graham said the actions of Getzendanner showed “a serious crack in Gerzendanner’s integrity” and the actions of the council showed a “serious crack in its integrity.”
In other action at Monday’s meeting, the council introduced an ordinance to expand the boundaries of the Special Improvement District to include Block No. 1913, Lot Nos. 1 through 3—503 and 509-517 Springfield Avenue and 535 Springfield Avenue and Block No. 2608, Lot No.2—309 Springfield Avenue.
In addition, according to City Clerk David Hughes, the ordinance will remove the former Summit Medical Group property from the Central Business District.
The public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, December 21.
Also scheduled for hearing that evening are ordinances providing for the city to vacate a portion of a “paper street” on Cleveland Road and turn over the two parcels of land to adjoining property owners and establishing fire lanes at all city public schools, Oak Knoll School and the Merck & Co., Inc. property.
After a discussion on possible designation of the city-owned property at 2 Walnut Street, the Broad Street parking lot and the post office parking lot as areas in need of redevelopment, the council authorized preliminary studies that could lead to the designation for the Walnut Street property.
The cost of that study, which will come out of the 2011 budget, will be about $4,000.
Council members also approved assessment reports for drainage improvements previously done on Whittredge Road, pedestrian safety projects on Hartley and Ridge Roads, Summit Avenue and High, Maple and Elm Streets and curb and sidewalk improvements to Oak Ridge Avenue, Section III.
Madden said the interest rates to be charged residents of the affected streets for the assessments will be determined after the city’s chief financial officer reviews the materials.
Getzendanner added the affected residents would have a choice of paying the assessments in a lump sum or in 10 installments.
Community Services Director Beth Kinney also presented Mayor Jordan Glatt with a plaque signifying the fact that the city has achieved sole status as a medium-sized municipality in the Silver category of the Sustainable Jersey competition that recognizes public and private environmental efforts in communities that “want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term.”
Kinney noted the city achieved 550 points in the category where it only needed 350 to qualify and it was one of the top communities of the 38 that submitted applications.