Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said he was instructed by Council President John Ducey not to speak at council meetings unless directed, and if the practice continues, he'll hold his own town hall meeting at the same time as the town council's meeting.
Additionally, Acropolis said he will instruct both Jean Cipriani, the township attorney, and Scott Pezarras, the township business administrator, not to attend township council meetings and attend his town hall meeting instead.
Acropolis was silent during the vast majority of the council meeting Tuesday night, except when Ducey asked him a question, and allowed him to give comments. Ducey did not answer several questions from Acropolis during his comment period.
Ducey said keeping the mayor from participating in council discussions is simply a matter of keeping order.
"Just to maintain control of the meetings, pursuant to Robert's Rules, the questions go through the chair," said Ducey. "That's the fair way to do it. If we have everything going through the chair, it's just an easier and cleaner way to run the meeting."
But Acropolis took exception with the notion that he should not participate in the meeting.
"I will not be silenced at another council meeting by you, or any other elected official," he said.
"I have the right by Faulkner to comment and participate at these meetings, and shame on you for not letting me do so," he said, referring to the Faulkner Act, the state law which sets forth the provisions under which Brick's form of municipal government operates. Acropolis holds that the mayor is empowered by that law to participate during council meetings.
"If we can't come to an agreement, we will go to a town hall format of meetings," Acropolis said. "I will have town hall meetings when you have council meetings. We will advertise and invite the public, and we will answer questions from the public."
"We've always let the mayor have something to say," said Councilman Joseph Sangiovanni, the only council member besides Ducey to speak on the subject. "This mayor here happens to be a mayor who has a wealth of knowledge. This fella here knows more about this town than anyone I know, and we should allow him to participate. That's what this is supposed to be about. We're all supposed to participate."
Acropolis has legal footing to carry out his plan. Under the Faulkner Act, only the township council and the council secretary and clerk are required to be physically present to hold a public meeting.
Council members often lean on Pezarras and Cipriani to answer questions they have on matters of policy, as well as to answer questions brought up by members of the public, however. The absence of the pair could have a serious impact on the meetings.
"We can either have a good relationship, or not," Acropolis said.