WAYNE, NJ – In a letter addressed to Council President Franco Mazzei, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Fran Ritter states her reasons why she is not attending tonight’s Town Council meeting and why she feels the meeting should not happen at all.
“In consideration of the advice of medical professionals, the President's recommendation that no gatherings greater than 10 persons be scheduled and the Governor's 8 PM curfew; I will not attend tonight's meeting,” wrote Ritter.
“As leaders in our community we are charged with modeling appropriate behavior, this is especially true during times of crisis,” Ritter went on. “I cannot in good conscience expose our staff, the officers assigned to protect us and my colleagues to an unnecessary risk nor would I do anything that might expose my constituents to the possibility of spreading this pandemic as a condition of their participation in our democratic process.”
Ritter has called for the meeting to be postponed for public safety reasons. “This is a public meeting and the public has a right to participate,” said Ritter. “Given the current pandemic, the public may not feel safe attending this meeting. I also feel that they are serving the greater good by staying home as directed by our Mayor, the Governor of New Jersey and the President of the United States.”
Council President Mazzei did not respond to our attempt to reach him. However, Mayor Vergano spoke to TAPinto Wayne to respond to Ritter’s comments.
“The state health department guidelines are to not have more than fifty people at one gathering, and we will not have more than fifty people at tonight’s meeting,” said Vergano who went on to say that he felt the environment would be safe, otherwise he wouldn’t attend.
“We tried to put nothing on the agenda that would generate a large group of the public coming in,” he said, mentioning that this was the recommendations from the state. “Councilwoman Ritter, has decided to put something on the agenda that she believes will generate interest. So, it’s really working against what the state of New Jersey is telling us.”
Vergano is referring to a new proposed ordinance that Ritter asked to put on the agenda tonight regarding changing the public comments portion of the Council Meeting agendas.
“We need to meet tonight for the Government to go on with its business, which partly is to pay bills,” the Mayor said. “I have a report to the community that I will be presenting with an update on where we are. If Councilwoman Ritter doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the meeting, that’s her decision. She can stay home or participate on the telephone; we’ve done this before.”
The Mayor confirmed that there is not a way as of yet for the public to participate in the council meeting remotely, but he did mention that this would be a subject of his presentation at tonight’s meeting.
Ritter wanted to know: “What is it about tonight’s meeting that can’t be postponed until our Township personnel can figure out an alternate, remote means to carry out the meeting safely and still allow for the public’s participation?” asked Ritter. “You’re convening a public meeting at the risk to the public who may want to attend, and to the Township employees and government who need to attend.”
“In this digital age, we can ill-afford excuses to not find a safe means to have public meetings,” said Ritter. “During this emergency, nothing is more important than slowing this pandemic - a single transmission of this disease could exponentially increase its spread and result in a preventable death.”
Ritter ended her letter with: “I strongly suggest that all public meetings be canceled until arrangements for remote/telephonic participation by all entitled to contribute are in place.”
It was clear in Vergano’s voice that the meeting would not be postponed, and he will attend confidently feeling that he will be safe.
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