HOWELL – Amid accusations she drunkenly threatened a bar manager’s job, Deputy Mayor Pamela Richmond said she has no intentions of resigning before her term ends this year.
Richmond, a Republican, was at the Ivy League last month when the incident occurred.
During the public comments portion of the October 18 Township Council meeting, one of the Ivy League’s managers approached the podium. Before Kim Shulskie of Jackson began to speak, Richmond interrupted and said she was going to recuse herself because of pending litigation.
The deputy mayor then announced she’d retained a lawyer and went to the rear of the room.
Shulskie explained to the governing body she wanted to go on the record about an incident that occurred on October 9, 2022, that she found “despicable and totally inappropriate for a community servant who takes an oath of office.” The bar manager also shared an email to township officials days after the altercation involving Richmond and her companion John Bittner.
“I would like to state that I’m a registered Republican and a Trump supporter,” prefaced Shulske. “My motivation for coming forward about this incident is not to support any Democratic agenda or politics in your town.
“It is simply about ethics and a code of conduct of a public official who threatened me at work, and not politics,” Shukske continued. “I have nothing to gain from this. I also filed a police report about this incident and have video documenting the incident.”
After four years as a bar manager at the Ivy Lounge alone, Shulskie said she’s come to recognize when people have had too much to drink. She also knows what types of things can trigger issues, bar fights, and violence.
According to Shulskie, Richmond and Bittner were sitting at the bar watching football when they started chanting “Let’s Go Brandon,” which is code for “(expletive)” Joe Biden. Since she didn’t want to see other patrons riled up, Shulskie said she calmly approached the couple and asked them to “chill” with the “Let’s Go Brandon.”
Rather than comply with her request to deescalate a possibly bad situation, Shulskie said Richmond and Bittner reacted aggressively and irately.
“They both began to scream profanities at me,” Shulskie wrote. “Cursing me out in front of families and children that were seated at bar tables.”
The worst was yet to come from Shulskie’s vantage point. Concerned about possibly bringing COVID home to her family, the bar manager wears a surgical mask when she’s at work.
“At one point, she (Richmond) told me to take off my mask so she could spit in my face,” said Shukskie. “I tried to explain that I wasn’t coming at her as a political view…I was simply saying it was inappropriate and that she couldn’t act like that in a bar.”
Shulskie said that she even explained that she and the deputy mayor shared the same political views. She became alarmed when Richmond climbed up on the footrest of the bar to come over as far as she could over the bar top.
“She did this so they could both scream in my face and try to intimidate me by telling me she hoped I liked my job because I wouldn’t be there tomorrow,” Shulskie shared.
When the bar manager asked Richmond her name, she only offered her first name. Later, Shulskie was surprised to learn that Richmond was actually the Howell deputy mayor.
Shulskie said she was particularly intimidated by Bittner’s size as he towered over her at approximately 6’5 and 300 pounds. The couple continued to berate the bar manager and gave her a hard time about paying their checks and leaving. One of the bar owners intervened.
The following day, Shulskie filed an incident report with Howell Township Police. According to Patrolman Christopher Sullivan’s written report, he contacted both Richmond and Bittner by telephone.
“Richmond explained that Shulskie screamed at her as well as Bittner,” wrote Sullivan. “Richmond then continued and explained that Shulskie threatened to make them leave the establishment.”
According to Sullivan, he also spoke with Bittner and said Shulskie screamed at the couple to stop the “Let’s Go Brandon” chant. Bittner categorized the argument as verbal, with nothing physical or threats coming from him or the deputy mayor.
Footage of the incident was supplied to local police but not this newspaper.
Shulskie told township officials that she works for the Ivy League and their sister restaurant Chapter House on occasion. She recognized the couple as regulars at both establishments and recalled serving them the night before the incident.
“This type of person should not be governing any part of government in my opinion,” said Shulskie. “She has a drinking problem and should seek help because she is obviously at a low point in her life.
“She is morally corrupted for the fact that she would try to use her position to threaten my livelihood,” continued Shulskie. “By thinking she could have me fired for running the business how myself and the owner see fit.”
Mayor Theresa Berger first asked Shulskie if she had lost her job. Shulskie has taken a voluntarily leave of absence as a result of the incident. Berger apologized to the bar manager for her experience, calling Richmond’s actions inappropriate and unprofessional.
“I would respectfully request the resignation of Deputy Mayor Richmond,” said Berger, a Democrat.
Other council members weighed in on the incident. Councilman John Bonevich, the only other Democrat on the governing body asked the business administrator if the township had a copy of the video available for review. None of the council members had seen it yet.
“This is a very serious thing,” said Bonevich. “We’re going to get the police report, and the video and then Council has to make a decision.”
Bonevich suggested that it might make sense to put the deputy mayor on a paid leave until the seriousness of the matter was determined.
“Our deputy mayor has worked incredibly hard for our community,” Councilwoman Suzanne Brennan shared. “She has helped individuals, helped businesses, and anyone in need…I just want everyone to remember there’s two sides and she deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell concurred with Brennan’s comments, saying that she also wasn’t going to rush to judgment because she wasn’t there and hadn’t seen the video.
Although Shulskie did not file charges against the deputy mayor, she’s since learned why Richmond retained legal counsel.
Toms River attorney William R. Burns sent an email to Shulskie on Richmond’s behalf demanding that Shulskie cease and desist from making what he referred to as further “false and defamatory” statements. Shulskie refused further comment to avoid the threat of legal costs.
Richmond stayed after the meeting for a few minutes to speak to the lone reporter in the room. Clad in black dress pants and heels, Richmond wore a bright pink t-shirt beneath a cardigan. While township council members don’t generally make fashion statements, the deputy mayor’s shirt prompted the reporter’s first question.
Upon request, Richmond opened her sweater a bit to reveal the words on her shirt: “Rebels Fight Back.” The message was more than supporting the local high school team in this case.
“It’s all political theater,” Richmond asserted. “There was a little tiny altercation made worse than it actually was. We were all having a good time at the bar where I go to support my local businesses.”
Richmond reserved further comment other than saying she’d made friends with the owners of the Ivy League Bar and Grill. The deputy mayor called herself a frequent flyer at the establishment – a place she frequents with her family.