UNION, NJ – Things heated up during the public comments portion of the Township Committee meeting Wednesday night.
Most comments surrounded a Direct Elect Mayor petition which was circulated for signature at the polls on Election Day. A handful of residents at the meeting felt they were not given sufficient information prior to seeing the petition in order to make an informed decision and that the petitioners could not answer specific questions about it.
Mayor Figueiredo, who signed the petition as a citizen, said, “since some people were talking about the direct election of our mayor, a group of people decided to go out there and see what the public wanted.”
Residents at the meeting raised concerns about increasing the government body to six, plus a mayor, through the direct elect form of government.
Mayor Figueiredo said there are a limited number of options for a government under a direct elect system. The form with the least number of seats is the one outlined on the petition -- six committee seats and a mayor.
“Under the Faulkner Act, there are only certain models that can be followed,” said Figueiredo.
“I don’t know whether to be insulted or angry,” said one resident, “at what, to me, seems like shenanigans with a last minute petition being circulated.” The resident said it appears that the petition was put out there “just in case Jason [Krychiw] got in, to put everything in your [the committee’s] favor going forward.” She continued, however, “I definitely think it’s a great idea to be able to directly elect the mayor.”
One resident said the petitioners were paid out-of-towners and “came in and harassed residents who were volunteering their time and campaigning for others.” Another said police were called because of the “antagonistic behavior” from the people from out of town. Mayor Figueiredo said no calls of complaints were received by the Township Clerk regarding voter intimidation or harassment at the polls. The township attorney said the police director was checking on any reports filed with the police department.