Minutes: March 14, 2022

YouTube video of the March 14, 2022 council meeting »

This meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on March 14, 2022 via Zoom Webinar and in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Patrick Rizzuto presiding.

STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE

Adequate notice of this meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 14, 2022 and on January 18, 2022 was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7.

ROLL CALL

Present were Council Members Natalie Buccieri, Michael Furrey, Brian Lynch, Harry Shortway and Council President Patrick Rizzuto. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker, Municipal Clerk Marcy Gianattasio and Township Attorney Josh Zielinski.

SALUTE TO THE FLAG

Council President Rizzuto led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.

PRESENTATION by Patrick Rizzuto, Brian Lynch and Bonnie Tadrick

Vietnam Veterans of America Post 1002 - Represented by John Harrington and John McGowen

Council President Rizzuto and Council Member Lynch donated a check for $2500 to Vietnam Veterans of America Post 1002. This check is for the efforts in developing the Vietnam Cemetery in Sparta and on behalf of the young men and women of Vernon Township who gave their lives in defense of their country during this conflict and also Lt. Allen Zimmerman.

PROCLAMATIONS

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Council Member Buccieri read the proclamation.

MAYOR COMMENTS

It is said that when one door closes, another door is opened.

The spirit of this belief has for years fueled our forefathers' and foremothers' determination and will to persevere when faced with difficult challenges and circumstances; and, it has become a critical piece of what we call the American Character.

However, because it seems to be the nature of us humans to focus on what we believe has been done to us, or denied us, by the door that has closed, we often never see, or take advantage of, the door that has been opened.

Well on tonight, I want to reconfirm the closing of what has been a divisive municipal governing door during the first two months of this year; but even more important, I want to recognize and acknowledge what I believe has been the opening of a new door that has the potential to lead to improved corporation within the Council, and improved corporation between the Council as a collective group and the Office of the Mayor.

First, about the door that has been closed.

At our last meeting, in my summary update on the Town Center Pump Track and the Town Center Biking & Walking Trail, I tried to close the door on the divisive and energy consuming debate concerning if the Town Center Pump Track and the Town Center Biking & Walking Trail infrastructure amenities would be canceled or would continue as ongoing municipal projects.

I tried to do this by providing a summary update which revealed that these two amenities were well on their way to completion, and that no positive purpose could come from the Mayor and the Council using additional time and energy debating and fighting about these two projects.

That door is closed, and I want us as a governing body to move on to the door that I believe has been opened.

Second, about the door which has been opened.

The door which I believe has been opened to possible better municipal governing corporation, came in the form of the last public comments at last month's Council meeting, from Vernon resident Mr. Ed DeYoung, and from the ending Council comments from Council Member Brian Lynch.

For me, Mr. DeYoung's comments helped to provide an increased, and a more realistic "here and now" perspective of life, when he asked us to simply phase for a moment, and think about the real war related human suffering that is taking place in Ukraine; and to consider the growing dangerous divisions that are taking place in our own country.

I was especially struck by his question to the Mayor and Council, when he asked us what was the value of us contributing to this discord by fighting over a pump track and a trail.

I know that Mr. DeYoung's comments struck Council Member Lynch in a similar manner, because he said so at the meeting.

I saw the further opening of a door to possible municipal governing corporation in the form of Council Member Lynch's comments, when he said that while he did not agree with me on some things, he believed that I am doing what I believe to be right as Mayor.

I humbly thank Council Member Lynch for those kind comments, and tonight I say to him, that while I also know that there are things on which he and I don't agree, I additionally know that there are many things on which he and I do agree; and, I also believe that even when he disagrees with me, he is still doing what he believes to be right as a Council Member.

Now I understand that there will be some who think that the points that I have cited are meaningless and insignificant, and don't really reflect the opening of a door of possible municipal governing cooperation; and I can understand their skepticism.

However, my life experiences have taught me that in situations such as these - - when our town's governing body has been as dysfunctional as it has been for the first two months of this year - - in situations such as these, we as responsible leaders have an obligation to those who elected us, to look very hard to find the positive needle of progress in the negative hay stack of dissension.

I repeat, I believe that a door for possible municipal governing corporation has been cracked open, and my comments tonight are part of my attempt to push that door open even more, and to walk through it. I hope that others will choose to join me.

Tonight, I am extremely pleased to quantify what most of you already anecdotally know - - and that is that the number of COVID-19 cases in our state, our county and our town have declined considerably during the past month.

For example, for the month of February, cases in our town are down from an average of 41 per day in January, to just 5 cases per day in February - - this is an 88% decline; and in Sussex County, cases are down from an average of 290 per day in January, to 31 cases per day in February - - an 89% decline.

With these kinds of results, combined with the decisions by our state's governor and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to relax mask-wearing guidelines, on February 28, I announced the discontinuance of the requirement that masks be worn when entering the Municipal Center.

Through medical science and our many unpleasant COVID-19 experiences, we have learned a lot about this devious new virus since it invaded our lives and changed our way of living over two years ago.

However, because this is a new, never before experienced virus, it continues to present us with unexpected challenges and difficulties. Therefore, we need to continue to remain vigilant in doing what we believe to be important and necessary to protect ourselves, our families and our friends from the threat that this virus presents.

Ask any of the seniors around this county, and they will tell you that Vernon Township has an outstanding Senior Center.

That great reputation and honor is due almost totally to the fact that the planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling of the care and services that our municipality provides our seniors through the Vernon Township Senior Center, is managed by the dynamic and caring team of Director of Recreation and Community Affairs, Ms. Mishelle Downtain; Senior Center Supervisor, Ms. Jane Damstra; and Community Affairs & Recreation Assistant, Ms. Meg Wahnon.

The outstanding quality of our Senior Center has earned it the status of being designated as a Congregate Nutrition Site.

Congregate Nutrition Sites are exclusive sites that promote the health and well-being of older adults through the provision of nutritious meals and creative programs, usually five days a week, at convenient locations within the county.

Of the 23 municipalities in Sussex County, only three municipalities' Senior Centers have earned this designation - - those being the Senior Centers of Vernon, Hopatcong, and Franklin.

Because of COVID-19 related restrictions, since March 13, 2020, our seniors have not had full access to our Senior Center and the services that it offers.

However, a combination of: 1. The significant decline in COVID cases over the past month - - for example, for the month of February, cases in our town are down from an average of 41 per day in January, to just 5 cases per day in February - - an 88% decline; combined with ...

2. The decision by our state's governor and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to relax mask-wearing guidelines - -

This combination of factors led to me making the decision to reopen our Senior Center to full access to our seniors, effective today, which is the two-year anniversary of its COVID caused closing!

This means that with but one exception, our seniors will have full access to all of the services and conveniences that were offered by our Senior Center before it closed on March 13, 2020.

The one exception will be that the Sussex County Division of Senior Services have not yet decided to resume the sit-down formal meals that they previously offered inside of the Senior Center.

However, until the Sussex County Division of Senior Services decides to restart serving these in Center, sit-down formal meals, we will continue to offer a "Grab & Go" meal pick up service for our seniors who need and want these meals.

It's my belief that this opportunity that the Creator has given us to care for those who once cared for us - - those being is our seniors - - is one of the most important responsibilities and highest honors that we have been given.

So tonight, I say to our seniors, WELCOME BACK TO YOUR SENIOR CENTER!

I am very proud of the town in which I live, and which I currently have the honor of serving as Mayor; that's a fact about which I have made no secret.

In spite of the divisions and angry rhetoric that exists today at all levels of our society, the respect for and good feelings that I have about the people of Vernon Township are frequently reinforced by my observations of repeated random acts of civic positiveness.

These repeated random acts of civic positiveness support my view of our town as a good place to live and raise a family.

Because I found it to be somewhat unique, I want to share with you, one such random act of civic positiveness that I was involved in earlier this month.

Earlier his month, Business Administrator Voelker, Chief of Police Young, I, and a 39-year Vernon resident sat down together and put together a plan that will contribute to the safety of our community. This 39-year Vernon resident is an active member of a coalition that provides collaborative care to LGBTQ+ veterans, service members, and their families.

One of their specific focuses is on supporting the Veterans Administration's program to reduce, and hopefully end, the large number of veterans who kill themselves each year. According to the Veterans Administration, veterans are currently killing themselves at a rate of approximately 22 per day.

And, because most of these self-inflected veteran's deaths are via guns, the coalition that this Vernon resident works with makes an attempt to contact and interact with LGBTQ+ vets and provide them with counseling, other services, and gun locks.

Since most LGBTQ+ vets find it difficult and fearful to quote, "come out of the closet", this Vernon resident has access to more gun locks than she is able to distribute; and, has offered these gun locks to our police department to distribute as they wish.

Chief Young's plan is to provide these gun locks to any resident who wants one - - no questions asked.

This is but just one of the many examples of Vernon residents looking out for and helping each other; and another piece of evidence that the phrase VERNON CARES is not just a meaningless slogan.

PUBLIC COMMENTS (For Current Agenda Items Only, Limited to 3 Minutes Per Person)

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open the meeting to Public Comments.
MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Harry Shortway
All members voted in favor.

Anil Sahajwalla - owner of Alpine Haus Bed and Breakfast, is very concerned because his real estate contract with Caste of Greens was added to the agenda by mistake.

Council President Rizzuto explained that he received Mr. Sahajwalla's email demanding an apology because the real estate contract between Mr. Sahajwalla and Keren Gonen was put with the public agenda packet for tonight's Township Council meeting. The real estate contract was provided to the township by Ms. Gonen in connection with Castle of Greens request to make a presentation to the Township Council. It was not anyone's intention to harm Mr. Sahajwalla or Ms. Gonen and the contract has been removed from the public agenda packet that was accessible on line. Council President Rizzuto said he sincerely apologizes for the misunderstanding and any inconvenience it has caused.

Steve Dunlop - Vernon Township, explained some of the comments that were posted on Facebook in reference to the real estate contract and Castle of Greens presentation.

Seeing no one else from the public wishing to come forward, Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to close the meeting to Public Comments.
MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to close public comment.

PRESENTATION/DISCUSSION

Vernon Township Economic Development Advisory Committee - Social Media Policy

Jennifer Lubliner, Sally Rinker and Keren Gonen of the Economic Development Advisory Committee presented the Council with an idea for a social media policy for Vernon Township employees, elected officials and volunteers.

Good evening - Mayor Howard Burrell, Council President Pat Rizzuto, and Councilmembers Natalie Buccieri, Mike Furrey, Brian Lynch, and Harry Shortway.

Thank you, Council President Rizzuto for allowing us this opportunity to speak to all of you tonight.

The mayor signs his emails "Never Let Important Things Get In The Way On Necessary Things," we are here tonight because we feel this this topic is both Important and Necessary.

We, the members of Vernon's Economic Development Advisory Committee, want to address the most urgent issue affecting Economic Development, which is the image of our town as it relates to the perception that we are responsible and worthy of business investment.

Every single Vernon elected official, department head, employee, and volunteer represents our town. You are all seen as facilitators of the management and accomplishments of the needs of residents, taxpayers, and business owners.

We, members of the EDAC, recognize the importance of the image of our town as it relates to public trust, attractiveness to perspective new businesses, and the retention of existing businesses. We appear at this Council meeting tonight to express our beliefs that unless we pay attention to our image, by exhibiting examples of good conduct, refraining from personal attacks on one another, in the press, in social media, and at public meetings, our town will continue to have a negative image, which is bad for business.

There are fundamental truths in marketing. The appearance, whether it be for an object or a town, must be neat, orderly, predictable, and desirable.

Personal attacks of private citizens and one another by elected officials, employees, or volunteers of our town results in the wasting of precious time that needs to be spent on positive and worthwhile efforts. It perpetuates negative behavior by example and is bad for business.

As your appointed EDAC members, we are here to say we want the energy and efforts of all who serve our town to focus on the needs of the community and the improvement of our quality of life here. That means making decisions that minimize our risks and liabilities. That means assessing every plan, project, and investment for the betterment of the majority of residents and taxpayers.

When developers come to a town, they are not as concerned with obtaining permits or even the cost of building their business as they are concerned with dealing with the chaos of a town that is disjointed and exhibiting negative behavior. They just need to peruse the Township FB pages, the elected officials FB pages, and the local publications to see the negativity in our own government to know they should not invest in our town. If you think focusing on personal attacks instead of sticking with the issues doesn't affect our ability to attract business, you are sorely mistaken.

We are asking all of you, as our elected officials to lead by example. You must interact with dignity and competence on issues and refrain from personal comments. This is what we taxpayers deserve as our branches of government - in which the separation of the branches - requires debate and discussion for best outcomes. But these separations of duties must work in conjunction with and for the benefit of residents and taxpayers.

We are asking for a much-needed reset for the dignity of our town and the energy to be spent in positive ways. We, your appointed EDAC members, are presenting to the Council tonight, a social media policy for consideration because the Council sets policy. We believe this is a necessary step, a reminder in place, to keep the purpose of your governing for us in mind. All good things accomplished for Vernon can only be done with mutual respect for differing opinions and an overriding acknowledgement that we need to stop personal attacks and criticisms that put our town in a negative light.

Best practices call for the Township to have a social media policy in place. The draft we have for you tonight is very similar to the social media policy adopted by our MUA in 2018, which was introduced by Councilmember Shortway.

Please consider these points so that we, on the EDAC, can work with the hope of accomplishments and that our elected officials, employees, and volunteers set a good tone for all to follow. Let's show that we can be respectful, and respect will surely be returned many fold.

Castle of Greens - Business Plan

Ms. Keren Gonen Owner of Castle of Greens LLC along with Christian Chavez and Carlos Perez made a presentation to the Council explaining the intent to seek a license to operate a cannabis retail business in the town of Vernon. She respectfully requests the Town Council's support, through an appropriate resolution, as we continue our effort to obtain a New Jersey State Cannabis Retail license. Below you will also find our management profile which provides you with detailed information regarding her company.

1) Site control -We have contracted the property 218 Rt 94 Vernon, NJ, 07462 to be our retail facility with the hopes that the Town of Vernon will recognize the benefits of supporting our highly professional Retail company. This property and associated structure are within the Town of Vernon Cannabis Retail Zone. Should we be fortunate enough to obtain your support through resolution, this property will provide our business with an ideal set-up for a highly successful cannabis retail operation.

2} Experience - Castle of Greens (our "Company") was founded by a team of skilled professionals with the goal of retailing the safest, purest, and highest quality cannabis possible for the adult-use market in New Jersey. Our proposition is simple - we believe that the highest quality cannabis is found at the intersection of agricultural expertise and Retail Expertise. As such, our management team was structured with that goal in mind. We found individuals that have already achieved incredible success in various highly regulated industries, specifically Retail, utilities & indoor cultivation, combined them with over 30 cumulative years of direct cannabis industry experience within just our ownership team, we will be an industry leader for cannabis retail in New Jersey by +5887providing premium cannabis products to both experienced and novice consumers. Our retail facility and all operations will rigidly observe, implement, and enforce a culture of compliance and safety to ensure the well-being of our customers, neighbors, vendors, and the people of New Jersey at large. Unlike Multi-state operators, where large state operators with little ties to the community win licenses, our ownership is split between two individuals, with 100% owned by local residents. Our team qualifies as social equity, diversely owned, and women owned. Our owners have lived in Vernon, New Jersey for many years - we call this Town home.

3) Community impact/involvement - Castle of Greens is committed to being not only a successful business but a good neighbor to the Town of Vernon and its residents. As stated above, our partnership and owners and management team will be accessible to Town leadership such as yourself, council members to address any concerns. We want to support the Vernon community any way we can and make the Town of Vernon the home of Castle of Greens LLC for many years to come.

4. Safety and Security - We have partnered with The Anzilotti Group LLC to provide us with the highest standards for safety and security. The Anzilotti Group is spearheaded by Robert Anzilotti, former Chief of Detectives for the highly regarded Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy. A veteran security expert who is nationally recognized for his public safety excellence, he leads a team of subject matter experts prepared to provide the highest level of safety and security in the industry. The Anzilotti Group currently provides safety and security for several high-profile clients and their associated business campuses. Plans are in place, under their direction, for state-of-the-art alarm systems, various types of CCTV camera systems on the interior and exterior of the buildings. We will install appropriate fencing and gates to control access, exterior lighting for safety and have a physical security presence on-site. The highest standards of inventory control will be put in place to ensure proper inventory tracking. Timothy Torell, a full-time employee of The Anzilotti Group, has made security and policing his life's work. Prior to recently retiring from law enforcement, Tim worked for the Englewood City Police Department for over 40 years, achieving the rank of Detective Captain. His experience includes serving as the city's Municipal Counterterrorism Coordinator, Domestic Violence Expert, Press & Public Information Officer, while also taking active leadership roles in Crisis Management and Policy Development. In addition to his decades-long work as a police officer, Timothy is also a member of the Policemen's Benevolent Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the NJ/NY Detectives Crime Clinic Association, and many other law enforcement and civic groups dedicated to public safety. This lifetime of experience, coupled with the oversight and involvement of The Anzilotti Group team, will ensure the safety and well- being of our staff, customers, and neighbors. Anthony Gallo is also a security consultant for Violet Castle of Green. Anthony has nearly 40 years of experience with extensive knowledge in safety, security, and risk management. For fifteen years, Anthony worked as the Director of Loss Prevention and Safety at EZCORP, INC. In this role, Anthony was accountable for all corporate and field loss prevention, safety, and risk management for both retail and financial loan service for 1,300 stores in 30+ states and in Mexico and Canada. He was responsible for developing talent in the areas of loss prevention, safety, and audit as well as leading the company's Emergency Management Team and managing its program. Since 2013, Anthony has served as a Managing Partner at Sapphire Risk Advisory Group, LLC where he has focused on loss prevention and safety consulting for high-risk business owners. His clients in this role have ranged from retail and financial loan services to the cannabis industry. He has published articles on loss prevention, armed robbery awareness, and safety in various industry publications.

REVIEW OF BILLS LIST

The Council had no questions regarding the bills list.

MINUTES

February 14, 2022 - Regular Meeting

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to approve the February 14, 2022 regular meeting minutes.
MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Michael Furrey

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve the February 14, 2022 regular meeting minutes.

February 28, 2022 - Executive Session

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to approve the February 28, 2022 executive session minutes.
MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Brian Lynch

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve the February 28, 2022 executive session minutes.

CONSENT AGENDA

Resolution #22-72: Refund Overpayments Due to State Tax Court Judgement Mountain Creek (Various Block and Lots)

Resolution #22-73: Resolution Accepting the Completion of Replacement of Synthetic Turf Field #3 at Maple Grange Park

Resolution #22-74: Transfer Resolution - Balance Transfers

Resolution #22-75: A Resolution Authorizing the PPO Dental Plan as an Additional Dental Plan Offering to the Employee Health Benefits Plan

Resolution #22-76: Emergency Temporary Appropriation

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Michael Furrey

Council President Rizzuto asked if resolution #22-75 the dental plan would save the town money.

CFO Bright answered that this will be in addition to the current plan and yes, this plan would save the town money.

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve the consent agenda.

Resolution #22-76: Emergency Temporary Appropriation

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

CFO Bright explained that every year we pass a temporary budget in January. This resolution will actually fund the town through April and May for the amount not covered in the temporary budget. This year the budget is in State review so Ms. Bright wanted to make sure that the town was covered until May.

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve resolution #22-76.

PUBLIC HEARING/2ND READING OF ORDINANCE

Ordinance #22-06: Capital Ordinance Providing for Various Improvements by the Township of Vernon, in the County of Sussex, New Jersey, Appropriating therefore the Sum of $20,000.00 and Providing that Such Sum So Appropriated Shall be Raised from the Capital Improvement Fund of the Township

Council President Rizzuto read by title Ordinance #22-06.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to place Ordinance #22-06 on the floor.
MOVED: Harry Shortway
SECOND: Michael Furrey

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open Public Hearing for Ordinance #22-06.
MOVED: Harry Shortway
SECOND: Brian Lynch
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to close Public Hearing for Ordinance #22-06.
MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri
All members were in favor.

A roll call vote was taken to adopt ordinance #22-06:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYES:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:

PUBLIC COMMENTS

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open the meeting to Public Comments.
MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Brian Lynch
All members present voted in favor.

Steve Dunlop - Williamsville Estates, is concerned because the farmer's market was moved to Heaven Hill Farm and there are only two handicap parking stops and the parking lot is very rough. Mr. Dunlop questioned Mr. DeYoung's comments at the last meeting because he feels that Mr. DeYoung has not been paying attention to the meetings.

Lisa DeRitter - Vernon Coalition Coordinator, explained that while Keren Gonen is a Coalition Member, the Coalition was not aware of the business situation and the Coalition is not in support of the resolution. Our goal of the Coalition is to keep our youth safe and to follow best practices in our community.

Sean Clarkin - Barry Lakes, feels that if you are going to be worried about marijuana stores you should also worry about alcohol stores. Mr. Clarkin also feels we need to coordinate with events happening at Mountain Creek. He commented that we should have more liquor licenses available in town and the town can sell liquor licenses. Mr. Clarkin asked about the bills from the MUA. He asked why are we not rethinking where the covid money is being spent.

Carl Contino - Vernon Township, feels that the Council should better enforce the rule that people should not address private citizens in public comment but address the Council itself.

Ann Larson - Vernon Township, disagrees with the Mayor's views. She would like to know what is the purpose if the $1.7 million that was confiscated from the rest of the town. Ms. Larson asked why a cash strapped MUA would reduce fees. Ms. Larson asked why the town is bonding for Mountain Creek when they are a private entity.

Anil Sahajwalla - Vernon Township, is very concerned because he saw someone taking pictures of his property.

Thomas McClachrie - Vernon Township, commented on the Herald Square property that was sold at the last property action and asked if the town informed the new buyers that there was to be no blasting. He also asked if there was any payback due to the grantor.

Walter Marsico - Vernon Township, feels that his TCO has been converted to a CO since no one acknowledged receipt of his letter. He addressed the new Council members because he feels that certain employees act lawless and cost the town a lot of money.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, feels that the Vernon Board of Education has a grant writer and we should be sharing that service. Ms. Distasi said the mayor works for Vernon and the people have a right to question his actions. Ms. Distasi asked why the farmer's market was moved. Ms. Distasi asked who answers the questions that she asked the MUA and she would like to see a plan for the MUA.

Shawn Mazur - Vernon Township, asked when the township will be revising their vacant property ordinance.

Jessica Paladini - Vernon Township, explained that she was the one who brought attention to the inappropriate sale contract on the website. Ms. Paladini expressed great concern about the recreation department and the farmer's market because of Facebook posts that were made about her.

Seeing no other members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to close the meeting for Public Comments.
MOTION: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Harry Shortway
All members present were in favor.

COUNCIL COMMENTS

Council Member Furrey commented that he appreciated the phone call he received today from Council President Rizzuto. Council Member Furrey requested that a resolution be added to the agenda tonight but because it was not added he read the resolution:

AUTHORIZATION OF AN APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNCIL TO INVESTIGATE THE VTMUA'S BILLING PRACTICES AND TO COMPLETE A FORENSIC AUDIT OF ALL VTMUA FINANCES BE IT ORDAINED BY THE TOWNSHIP COUNCIL OF THE TOWNSHIP OF VERNON, IN THE COUNTY OF SUSSEX, NEW JERSEY AS FOLLOWS:

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Municipal Utility Authority (VTMUA) completed a financial analysis of current billing practices and has discovered some issues in the amount of approximately $1.7million dollars over a ten-year time period and

WHEREAS, the VTMUA has begun the process of correcting these issues; and

WHEREAS, the VTMUA has notified the Mayor and Township Council of its findings

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex and State of New Jersey, as follows:

  1. The Township of Vernon with the assistance of the VTMUA will hire special counsel to investigate these findings; their root causes and
  2. The Township of Vernon strongly recommends that the VTMUA hire Special Counsel to investigate this issue and possibly perform a forensic audit from the date the VTMUA was formed to the current date
  3. The Township of Vernon will hire a reputable firm to perform a detailed forensic audit based on recommendations of the Special Council for the VTMUA from its inception to current date; and
  4. The Township of Vernon will receive a complete report from the Special Council and the firm performing the forensic audit; and
  5. This Resolution shall take effect immediately

Council Member Furrey explained that the reason why he wanted to set forth this resolution is because what was found out is a very serious matter and it warrants Vernon Township to pursue some type of investigation or to strongly encourage the MUA to investigate.

Council Member Shortway had no comment.

Council Member Lynch had no comment.

Council Member Buccieri thanked the Vietnam Veterans for being here tonight. She said her father is a Vietnam Veteran who served in the Air Force and her son was a Marine and served two tours in Afghanistan. She appreciates seeing our Veterans and it means a lot to her.

COUNCIL PRESIDENT COMMENTS

Council President Rizzuto commented saying that the issue of an ad hominem attack, which is what the Mayor continues to make issue about, is totally different from when a Council Person complains, is unhappy or shows the fact that too much money is being spent or is being spent in an improper manner. That is not an ad hominem attack. That is an attack on poor administration, spending too much money, and sighting a project or going ahead with a project that individuals may not agree with. Council President Rizzuto does not see that as being personal vilification or in fact an attack on any individual. It is the way he believes government should work. When there is a problem with a project it is the Councils responsibility and their right to bring this to the attention of the individual who is working for that project or in direct control of the operations, to question.

Council President Rizzuto commented that next week we are going to have a budget hearing and this is going to question the spending of the township. This is not personal; it is simply a way of looking at how the Council directs the town's resources and this is what the Council is supposed to do.

Council President Rizzuto thanked the Post 1002 for coming forth and presenting the colors this evening. He thanked Council Member Lynch and said that Council Member Buccieri should be honored for her son.

ADJOURNMENT

At 9:02 pm Council Member Lynch made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Seconded by Council Member Buccieri. All were in favor.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: April 11, 2022