WAYNE, NJ - During Governor Murphy’s daily press briefing on Thursday, a reporter asked a question about communities and businesses defying the Governor’s Executive orders and whether these orders would be enforced. Murphy responded, mentioning Wayne’s scheduled Graduation ceremonies next week, saying “Yes” to enforcing his orders. Mayor Chris Vergano is proceeding with the planned graduation ceremonies anyway.
The question posed by the reporter was: “An increasing number of towns and local businesses are rejecting your executive orders and opening restaurants, retail and other services, and even conducting graduation ceremonies on their own. Has your administration warned these entities that they face enforcement?” The reporter went on to mention a restaurant in Asbury Park that is planning indoor dining, and whether the Governor would step up enforcement.
“The answer is yes to all of the above,” said Murphy, who then spoke briefly about Wayne.
“I know Wayne was looking to do a graduation ceremony next week,” he said. “The good news is it appears to be organized in the way we want it; the bad news is we are not allowing them until July 6.”
Murphy, speaking about the Asbury Park restaurant, a theatre in Red Bank as well as Wayne Township said: “The answer is yes, we will continue to enforce as evenly as we can, especially when we think public health is at risk.” He then added: “We’re in touch with the communities I mentioned.”
Mayor Chris Vergano confirmed this, saying: “We have been in communication with the Governor’s office, and we are still in communication with them.”
Vergano was asked if there was any chance that the graduation events would be canceled because of the Governor’s threat of enforcement. The Mayor replied: “No. We are doing this for our kids. This isn’t about Phil Murphy or Chris Vergano. So, we plan to move ahead and hold these celebrations for our kids.”
“Is the Governor happy?” asked Vergano rhetorically. “I doubt it.”
Does Vergano know what the Governor’s enforcement would be? “I have no idea,” he replied.
Is Vergano concerned about the ‘enforcement?’ “No,” said the Mayor flatly.
In his daily Coronavirus updates, Vergano mentioned several times that the Township was forced to follow the Governor’s executive orders, but this time Wayne’s Mayor will not. “We have just reached a point where we need to do what’s right," he said. "And, this is a time when we are going to step up for our kids.”
Vergano was asked about the Wayne Board of Education President Cathy Kazan's comments. Kazan said she was "sad," and that she felt the Township's event was "not in the spirit of a traditional graduation from the Wayne School System."
"I want what Cathy wants," said Vergano. "But right now given the restraints of the Governor, the schools would be forced to have multiple graduations for each school which means the kids would not all be able to graduate together. This wouldn't be traditional either." The Mayor also mentioned that there are kids who, for various reasons, won't be able to attend in July. "I'll say it again, this is not about Kazan, it's not about Murphy, it's not about Vergano. This is about the graduating class of 2020, and what we are doing on June 18 and June 19 is for all of them and no one else."
“I’ve been getting very positive feedback these events,” he added, and mentioned that he is working with the project graduation organizers from each school to help make these events as close to a real graduation as possible.
Barbara Rigoglioso and Staci Lupo are project graduation organizers for Wayne Valley and Lisa Holton and Michele Iannelli are the Hills project graduation organizers. They are very happy that Vergano decided to do this. “On behalf of the Wayne Valley and Wayne Hills seniors and families,” said Lupo. “We would like to send our greatest gratitude to Mayor Chris Vergano and his counsel for hearing our seniors' voices and stepping up to do the right thing for not just these seniors, but for our Wayne community.”
The Township sponsored Graduation events are scheduled for Wayne Valley on June 18 and for Wayne Hills on June 19. See the township website for more details. Here are the rules for the event: