Brick Council Meeting Explodes in Anger, Shouting; Restructuring Measure Passes

Acropolis pledges veto of ordinances; Council President asks special police officer to remove mayor from room during meeting

A township council meeting exploded into a shouting match between Council President John Ducey and Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis before the governing body passed, in a 4-3 vote, a controversial pair of ordinances that will both eliminate and create positions in township government.

In a meeting that spanned more than four hours – most of which was dedicated to a sometimes-raucus discussion of the restructuring plan – township officials battled over whether the restructuring would save money or cost money, promised lawsuits and accused each other of handing out political patronage jobs.

Acropolis promised a veto of the ordinances, which his administration says will cost taxpayers approximately $130,000 and lead to “political hacks” being appointed to at least some of the newly-created positions.

Council President John Ducey said the move will eliminate $418,000 in salaries by eliminating five salaries and eight positions – some of which are not filled – and allow township government to become smaller and more efficient.

But Township Attorney Jean Cipriani warned the council for a second time that enacting the ordinances – which they eventually did – could lead to lawsuits by employees as well as a finding that the township violated the Open Public Meetings Act via the state’s Rice Law, which allows employees notice before their jobs are to be discussed at official meetings.

Cipriani, at the direction of the mayor, read a lengthy statement citing the state’s Faulkner Act – the law that sets forth Brick’s governmental structure – as well as case law, and explained in advanced legal language how portions of the law may violate that act and could be thrown out in court.

Acropolis also said some of the people whose jobs are being eliminated could be bumped to Civil Service jobs with higher salaries than they are collecting now.

At one point during the meeting, Acropolis took aim at Republican Councilman Dan Toth’s motivations for siding with council Democrats in spearheading the restructuring law (see separate story), implying he favored the law because it would eliminate the position held by Deputy Business Administrator Juan Bellu. Acropolis implied Toth wanted to eliminate Bellu because he would not adhere to requests from Toth to help business clients receive favorable treatment in opening liquor stores.

Toth would later say he was merely helping business owners after they contacted him, as he has done with those he has no business relationships with.

Ducey – Acropolis Altercation

The discussion turned especially sour when, during a public comment period, Ducey accused Acropolis of refusing to allow council members to speak with Business Administrator Scott Pezarras and others in his administration.

“That’s a lie,” said Acropolis.

“I’m running the meeting and I didn’t recognize you,” replied Ducey.

When Acropolis began to explain his position, Ducey banged his gavel, repeatedly telling Acropolis that he runs the meetings and Acropolis should not speak. The pair’s voices grew louder and louder until they were shouting at one another, at which point Ducey asked a special police officer to remove Acropolis from the council chambers.

“If anyone puts their hands on me, if you put your hands on me,” Acropolis said, at which point Ducey cut him off, shouting, “He’s threatening an officer! You can’t threaten an officer!”

“Vinnie, if you put a hand on me, I'll sue everybody here,” said Acropolis, referring to the officer.

“If you're gonna lie, Mr. Ducey, that's it, we're done,” Acropolis then said, briefly sitting in the regular audience section of the meeting room before leaving, along with Cipriani and Pezarras, who he instructed to exit the council chamber.

At a later point in the meeting, Ducey read a number of e-mails from township officials saying they could not answer questions about the restructuring plan because the mayor had instructed them not to.

However Acropolis provided to Brick Patch an e-mail dated Sept. 19 instructing Pezarras to “Please answer the Councilwoman’s questions in a timely manner,” referring to questions submitted by Councilwoman Susan Lydecker about bill resolutions.

Acropolis also provided a copy of a similar e-mail from Sept. 13 instructing Pezarras to provide information to Councilman Jim Fozman.

“Some quieter times and some [cooler] prevailing heads should probably take place,” said resident George Scott, following the exchange.

“What's going on here tonight is a lot of politicking and a lot of grandstanding,” said resident Nan Coll.

Ramifications of Restructuring

Eight senior positions – some unfilled – which amount to five salaries in township government, including those held by Deputy Business Administrator Juan Bellu and Recreation Department Head Dave Francese, will be eliminated under the plan. The job of the council's secretary will also be eliminated and will be replaced by a deputy municipal clerk.

The departments of Recreation as well as Community Development and Land Use would be eliminated entirely, with their operations rolled into other departments.

Deputy department head positions for the Finance Department and the Tax Assessor would be created under the plan. A deputy township clerk position would also be created.

During the meeting, Acropolis took aim at Ducey over the elimination of Council Secretary Jennifer Hartmann’s job.

“You want to get rid of her not because of her [job performance], but just because you want to create another position for a political hack,” said Acropolis, who then alluded to rumors former Democratic Councilwoman Kathy Russel or Democrat George Cevasco – who recently dropped out of the Ocean County freeholder race – might get the job.

“This does two things: it goes after two members of the administration who were department heads, and creates a $90,000 position in the clerk's office that will be filled with a Democrat politico,” said Acropolis. “It's smoke and mirrors. You say you're eliminating positions that have nobody in the positions.”

The entire exercise may end up in court eventually, some surmised.

Cipriani said there is a chance employees could sue the township, or the administration could end up facing off in court against the council over whether the ordinances are in accordance with the Faulkner Act or not.

In that case, the administration would be represented by Cipriani – a member of a Republican-aligned law firm – and the council would presumably be represented by Democrat-aligned attorney Charles Starkey, who authored the restructuring ordinance.

Council members Toth, Ducey, Fozman and Lydecker voted in favor of the ordinances. Council members Bob Moore, Domenick Brando and Joseph Sangiovanni voted against them.

Those in favor of the restructuring defended the measure, saying it will lead to smaller government in Brick.

Fozman said “too many unnecessary management positions” were created by the administration and the measure marks a “crucial step towards savings hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“We want to cut back,” explained Ducey. “We want to change the structure of government.”

“We couldn’t do it earlier” than now, Ducey said, because if the restructuring had been proposed earlier the mayor could have interfered in the passing of the township’s 2012 operating and capital budgets.

“Business and Finance had meetings, and we had to have our own attorney,” said Ducey. “We're trying to do what's right, we're trying to make the cuts that we think are needed.”

bs September 27, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Acropolis; Deluca, Matthews, Scaturro, Thulen, You four got creamed! Voters do not forget! Melanie losing her political job yet? She disappeared, now she is back. Deluca trying to put up a trailer on foodtown site? Or is he too busy trying to get control of Bricks Board of Education?
nutcracker September 27, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Those of you who believe in sweet talking Councilmen Dan Toth are in for a rude awaking. When he was the council's representative to the Land Use Department, he set up a sweetheart deal that allowed his stepmother to purchase a parcel of land from the township at a bargain price. She needed this parcel of land to make a business property she had up for sale on Cedar Bridge Avenue and Hooper Avenue more valuable. Further, to my knowledge Dan Toth is a member of the Township Redevelopment Authority, yet his father and stepmother who are in the Real Estate Business have actively brokered the foodtown redevelopment development site. Finally, Dan Toth talks about being committed to Brick Township and the strugglings mom and pop shops who are having difficulty running businesses in town, yet he moves his own wine business to Farmingdale, NJ. FLIP FLOP DAN - HE IS NOT OUR MAN.
Joseph Woolston Brick September 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Good luck with that one since people are leaving the Republican and Democratic parties in droves, becoming the undeclared and a threat to the two party system. Nothing like splitting a ticket in the voting booth! It's dangerous having a Town Council and a Mayor that's all one party, I think we the people of this town have learned that lesson the hard way. Unfortunately we will have no choice in the next go round. I really do hope that the Democrats that have been elected and that will be elected shortly understand they weren't elected because of their party beliefs or their policies, but simply to get rid of some councilmen and in a years time the mayor and the rest of his people. The Democrats have to realize that they basically are a spare tire until the main tire can be retreaded and fixed. Those that work at getting this town back on track will become part of the retread those that don't will go back in the trunk where they belong.
Joseph Woolston Brick September 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I wish people would replace the term "elected officials" with the more accurate "our employees". Which they are.
Joseph Woolston Brick September 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM
God complex? That's a little too much of a promotion for Steve, it's more like a Napoleon Complex.
nutcracker September 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Council Bob Moore, you have shown strength and character by voting the way you did...keep it up!
bs September 28, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Fullbright September 28, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Hey JD, What do you have to say about Toth wanting help on a liquor store that is his client?, that he abstained from? I heard stuff on this that will make you sick, just wait and see.
Frank Dolan September 28, 2012 at 02:28 AM
LMAO. How about Mr Toth , Dookies lackey, voting to abstain from the business of Liquor Licens. Then wanting to expedite things? The law is he has to have NO involment at all when he abstains and if they are his clients. Well move over Joey S......
bs September 28, 2012 at 02:35 AM
YAWN! LOVE MY DVR! Isn't Brando now employed with BTMUA? Water is now more expensive then milk! YAWN!
bs September 28, 2012 at 02:38 AM
SMile Brando, When Bellu gets canned, perhaps you can fill in Stevies position! TRMUA! What a joke Stevie, You once again DID throw yourself and your classmates under the bus!
JTR September 28, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Heard Ducey and Toth had it out big time today. Ducey is boiling mad Toth abstained from votes to do with liquor stores, then goes ahead and sends emails out to expedite certain things. My little birdie told me Ducey was screaming at Toth about it. Oh well, it did not take long for Ducey and his merry band of flunkies to start the infighting. What business deals and land deals are Toth involved in this town?
Freddy Compton September 28, 2012 at 02:51 AM
The reality of this is that no one will get "canned" as you say. They will only be moved around in town hall to other area's. The Council and Mayor know this. That is a fact,.
Typical Obama Voter September 28, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Some of the older politicos in town should tell young Dan about the Brick Township councilmen that went to prison in the 1970s for doing favors for the liquor industry. Liquor licenses are Big business and there is Big money involved
J.JONES September 28, 2012 at 03:09 AM
New council one hit wonders..you have tried save the town money but have raised our expenses and going to change our township managers staff illegally..And you guilty with trying to put your dem,s into postions ..And when you get with business trying to open in our township by using your politcal power and what will turn into professional success is just a conflict of interest ..If it sounds wrong is because it is totally wrong..Shame on you for trying to make it sound like your a robin hood or a good guy...Anyone with commen sense reads right threw you...Phony..
MOONPOOL September 28, 2012 at 04:44 AM
sal you are still a big part of the dem team. your blowing smoke up uour own boung hole! stopping the ice palace was a bad idea juat thimk of the construction jobs it would have helped."family's who depend on dad the manson ,carpernter and so on. the money it would have brought in to the town it self. sal were you on the btuma when your buddy newman stole the water from the rater payer's/ to the tune of $80,000 ???? but thats ok he was a dem. funny how you guy's forget all this stuff!
MOONPOOL September 28, 2012 at 05:17 AM
but... but......danny boy helped the puppys! doesen't that make it ok k for him to use his office to help people ??? who cant pay for there wine bill on time?? i think the A.T.F my have some questions for danny boy?? AND IT AINT ABOUT dogs!
Lori Morrison September 28, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Watched the meeting last night on BTV. My only comment is that the Mayor owes a public apology to Mr. Scott. Holding a public office does not give anyone the right to interrupt and disregard the man's time at the poduim to speak. I was raised to show respect to my elders, so should he.
DennyD September 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Yeah that was pretty lame. Mr. Scott actually said something like, "I have the floor, could you please stop butting in"! At that point Mr. Ducey started tapping the gavel and the Mayor started yelling like a little kid who had his candy taken away. I did hear him proclaim rather loudly,"I AM THE MAYOR!!" Whoaaa!!
lol September 28, 2012 at 01:31 PM
I watched the meeting last night..Its a little scary to know that these people are supposed to be working together to make the best choices for Brick tax payers..I dont know how anything productive can come out of this group of people..Its clear they HATE each other. Its a shame and sad that the people of Brick will be the losers in this situation. BTW...Im not a fan of the mayor but I dont think he threatened that officer..
10% Tax Cut NOW September 28, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I do not agree with the way the Town Council went foward with this proposal which will cost the taxpayer's additional Lawyer fee's from all ends - not only from the Administration & Council but from all the effected employee's being effected by the measure. With regard to the Mayor stating this change is for political payback jobs for friends of the Democratic Party, did he forget the long list of friends that received this same status by he himself and his own party: Belu & Francese along with the created Parks& Rec Department and the tranferred " Freinds & Family members prior to the DPW layoff's, Mr(s) Sangiovanni (BOE) and Brando (MUA) and Mr.Matthews (Housing Auth.) - please before you speak next time Mr.Mayor just think what you have not only did for your friends but also yourself when you received your job at the TRMUA after Mr.Belu received his large salary increase.
Sal Petoia September 28, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Moonpool: It is obvious you are not very bright. First, the SOS campaign was initiated for the purpose of letting the people decide on the Ice Palace purchase. Do you have a problem with letting voters decide important issues that affect millions of dollars? Second, yes I was on the BTMUA during the time when Dan Newman was falsely accused of dodging sewer payments. And if you are intelligent enough to understand the justice system, you would know that the grand jury exonerated Newman of wrong doing. The problem was that the MUA erred in the billing process years before. Newman's wasn't the only incident of that happening. Third, I'm a "big part of the dem team"? That comment just proves my first sentence of this reply.
Sal Petoia September 28, 2012 at 02:33 PM
JWB, your comments are well put. In my opinion political parties at the local level have little significance except to provide money and organization to candidates and to keep out the independents. When we had non-partisan government, anyone interested could run. True, they wouldn't have the "machine" to back them, but with no party designation in campaign literature or on the ballot, voters would have to do some thinking before casting their vote, thus giving independents a better shot at getting elected. Perhaps without the continuous partisan bickering we could have a local government that would actually work for the people instead rewarding themselves and party hacks…which we have seen too much of in Brick.
Brick res September 29, 2012 at 07:12 PM
In my opinion, Mr. Toth's financial gain evidenced from conflict of interest has JUST BEGUN TO SCRATCH the SURFACE. We have no evidence that Council President Ducey knew anything about Toth's abuse of authority and the driving force behind his actions. Until the Department of Community Affairs and/or Attorney General's Office investigate the Blatant Misuse of Power, I will give the Council President the benefit of the doubt. However, I hope he is more careful about the company he keeps. While the Council has every RIGHT to introduce such an Ordinance, they have only themselves to blame for NOT doing their homework. They can't keep blaming others for their lack of effectiveness on key matters that impact the Taxpayers.
Brick res September 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Councilman Moore said it best - Bob, it's politics, and proceeded to vote "NO" on this ill-conceived Ordinance.
Melinda October 01, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Given the cloud of uncertainty surrounding this Ordinance, I think that it would have made sense for more facts to come to light before action was taken. The explanation provided as to why a position was being created did not make sense to me at all. The claim that the clerk's office asked for more help doesn't equate to a need for another high-level position: DEPUTY CLERK. Apparently, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing or far worse it knows all too-well
frances October 03, 2012 at 09:01 PM
It is a Sad State of Affairs!
Scott Neuman October 05, 2012 at 02:58 PM
No more complaining. Want change? The Democratic-Republican Party Candidates offer change. No political favors. Len Marshall for the 4th Congressional district, Scott Neuman and Tracy Caprioni (lives in Brick) for Freeholders. We're Independents. Give us a shot. And the Democratic Empty Chairs from the Primary that both dropped out in the last minutes are possibliy being given jobs in Brick in new made up positions. Tired of Politics as normal? I'll do my best for the next three years to stand up for what is right. I won't settle for what is left. Scott Neuman - Candidate for Ocean County Freeholder 2012. http://www.scottneumanforfreeholder.com
Sal Petoia October 05, 2012 at 03:47 PM
For Scott Neuman: What is your position on restoring passenger rail service to inland Ocean County as proposed by the Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex (MOM) rail project and supported by the Central Jersey Rail Coalition as well as the Ocean County freeholders?
A time for change November 20, 2012 at 03:10 PM
These people are not concerned about keeping your tax rate stable or lowering taxes at all, if you drew up a how and who has positions chart and listed their political affiliations you would certainly be amazed of the infinite amount of monies wasted everyday, and the only reason they fight so hard to resist change is they simply refuse to except they are the cause not the solution, the municipality and the mua are ridiculously filled with unnecessary positions and are nothing more than a funnel for our tax monies to their pockets, you talk about natural disasters this is a storm that never ends, they will exhaust every ounce of energy to resist change, you see it everyday, Mr. Acroploiis is certainly a great example of that!


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