JACKSON – Two residents challenged the council majority about who would lead committees that make suggestions on important topics like finances.
The elephant in the room throughout the argument was about the political divide in Jackson. There are two Republican teams. Three council members are on one side, and the mayor and other two council members are on the other. The side with the council majority apparently chose who is leading the committees.
Resident Sheldon Hofstein brought up the subject at a recent council meeting, discussing the18 sub committees which help make policy, resolutions and ordinances for the town. He asked Councilman Nino Borrelli if he had retired from his state job. He was leading the councilman in a series of questions about how much time these committees take.
“No, I haven’t. You have to understand these committees don’t (regularly) meet,” Councilman Borrelli answered.
Hofstein said he wanted to make his point that “you still have a personal life.”
“What does this have to do with it, Mr. Hofstein?”
“I’m just saying that you have a life,” Hofstein repeated, questioning the number of committee assignments Borrelli has this year.
Borrelli replied, “I have the time, believe me. I served on many committees before this year and I handled it very well in representing you and your fellow residents.”
“You are chairman of eight of these committees and vice chair of five. Do you think it is possible to do your job?” Hofstein asked.
“Yes!” Borrelli answered.
“Councilman (Stephen) Chisholm has seven chairs and you have two new members that were elected. One (Councilwoman Jennifer Kuhn) has one chairmanship for a minor committee and Councilman (Scott Sargent) has none.” He described both council members backgrounds adding his opinion that, “they should have more appointments.”
Sargent and Kuhn joined the council as part of Mayor Michael Reina’s team. Even though they are all Republicans, they represent a sort of minority on the council. Council President Flemming, Borelli, and Chisholm are on the other side.
“It’s like two people are hogging everything. It would be very nice if you would give them some of the chairmanships and let them work with the town, instead of having, really, nothing. Think about it.” Hofstein recommended.
“They were appointed and they are serving on committees. In our first year we didn’t serve on a lot of committees either. We all have to start out somewhere, Mr. Hofstein,” the councilman replied.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t make appointments when you have people who are experts in certain fields,” Hofstein said. He had noted Sargent’s years of service on the Jackson Board of Education and being the vice chair of the Education Committee as well as his work in the public works department that may have made him eligible to chair that committee.
Resident Richard Egan also questioned Borrelli noting he was the chairman of the Education Committee and asked about his experience with the Board of Education.
Councilman Borrelli replied, “I’ve been discussing education issues since I’ve been on council and I am very interested in what is happening on the Board of Education and in particular what is happening on the state level and how it is effecting our town.”
“Don’t you think a man who has served many years on the school board with an exemplary record should be the chairman since he was on the School Board?” Egan asked the councilman.
“I did not make the appointments,” Borrelli replied.
Egan responded, “so you went along with what Mr. Flemming and Mr. Chisholm told you to do. Is that correct?”
“No. I was appointed to serve as chairman and I honorably picked up the helm to do that,” Borrelli said.
Egan said the council committee assignments were pre-determined prior to the January 3 reorganization meeting of the governing body.
“As we normally do,” Council President Martin Flemming said.
“As you don’t normally do,” Egan shot back.
“Okay and how many have you done Mr. Egan?” Flemming asked the resident.
Egan responded, “right now, you are in violation of the Sunshine Law. What you should have done is wait for the two people who just got elected were sworn in as council members, hold a recess, go into executive session so they had an ample say in the determining of the assignments.”
Flemming said the two new council members “were contacted and asked what they’d like to serve on.”
“But it’s not legal. You are in violation of the Sunshine Law. You just admitted so. He knew what he was doing even before (the reorganization meeting),” Egan replied.
Borrelli informed the resident “we didn’t meet in person. We didn’t have a quorum when it came to these appointments.”
“You are in violation of the Sunshine Law,” Egan repeated.
“No, we’re not,” Borrelli said.
Egan then asked about Flemming being nominated to serve as council president again this year.
Councilman Borrelli replied, “he reached out for support for council president just like anyone who wanted to serve as president of council would.”
Egan and Hofstein both used to be members of land use boards in town.