NJ borough officials censor councilwoman who plans to sue them on civil rights grounds

Roselle Borough Council on Wednesday censured an outspoken councilwoman who announced earlier this year that she intended to sue local officials for alleged civil rights violations.

Third Ward Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson, 63, said in a March 7 Notice of Complaint that Union County Borough officials retaliated against and harassed her after she allegedly expressed concerns about finances and other issues.

On Wednesday, the council introduced and passed an order “officially censuring” Johnson on numerous counts, including a “blatant disregard of council regulations.”

Johnson “disrupted public meetings and overall failed to conduct himself appropriately as a member of the governing body,” reads the resolution signed by the borough clerk. Four of six council members voted to approve the resolution.

The three-page resolution removes Johnson from her position as chair and member of the borough’s public safety committee and condemns Johnson’s behavior “in the strongest terms.”

The resolution alleges that Johnson interfered with the borough’s day-to-day operations, made excessive calls to the superintendent of public works and other officials, and sought information about crimes and fires “for the sole purpose of creating photo opportunities or unnecessarily inserting themselves into borough emergency operations.”

“Johnson’s conduct (as described in the resolution) constitutes misconduct, is divisive, violates council rules, and violates the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and ethical conduct required of borough elected officials” , indicate the resolutions.

In her notice of intent to sue, Johnson claims Chief Financial Officer Anders Hasseler and Borough Administrator R. Allen Smiley conspired against her, intentionally inflicted emotional distress on her, and “retaliatory harassment and abuse.” .

Johnson, who is black, is the longest serving member of the board, according to the notice.

In copies of correspondence obtained by NJ Advance Media, Hasseler and Smiley appeared to ask the councilwoman earlier this year to stay out of borough financial matters, telling her she needed to go to the trustees with her questions. .

Hasseler, Smiley and other borough officials did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment on the resolution.

On Friday, Roselle Council President Denise Wilkerson declined to comment on the resolution, referring questions to borough attorney Mohamad Jalloh, who did not immediately return a call and email asking for comments.

Johnson’s attorney, Patrick Toscano Jr. of Caldwell, sent a letter to Jalloh on Thursday demanding that the resolution be revoked.

The resolution is “largely false, misleading and retaliatory in substance/content. Accordingly, a request is made here for an immediate retraction of this senseless resolution, as well as a prompt apology to Councilwoman Johnson,” Toscano wrote.

Toscano also said in the letter that Johnson had submitted the necessary paperwork to hold a July 16 block party in the borough, but was told all of his paperwork had been lost.

“If this block party is interfered with in any way by the governing body, the councilwoman will pursue all necessary legal remedies,” the letter reads.

Anthony G. Attrino can be attached to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. To find NJ.com on Facebook.

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