BRICK TOWNSHIP, NJ-Brick Township Councilman James Fozman angered his fellow council members and Mayor John Ducey after he disclosed to the public that the township was dumping Barnegat Bay sludge illegally at various township public sites. At the last township council meeting, Brick Council President, Heather DeJong, refused to allow Fozman to speak about the incident ahead of an open public forum.
Yesterday, Fozman left his seat on the dias at the start of the public forum in an attempt to be heard before the public and was summarily ignored by DeJong, being called last.
Like other residents, Fozman, raised his hand when DeJong asked members of the public to speak, but was ignored each time.
One resident, Sam Foster said he was disturbed by the way the council has treated Fozman since he made a political decision not to endorse Senator Bob Menendez. At the time, Fozman and the entire Brick Township Council and Mayor John Ducey were Democrats. Since being ostracized by the council for his decision to not tow the party line and support the disgraced New Jersey Senator, Fozman has paid the political price.
“He took a seat out here because he wants to speak,” Foster said. “He’s been ignore twice now by the council president who has a smirk on her face…I know why you have a problem with him, because he has a sense of integrity and cares actually about the people in town. There’s no reason he should have to sit out here and wait to speak during public comments. This is ridiculous.”
Foster also criticized township attorney Kevin Starkey for instructing Fozman not to speak on certain issues regarding township business until the end of the meeting or if Fozman can somehow convince the council president to put his items on the public agenda.
“But when you have a council president who isn’t willing to a proper job, what alternatives does he have?” Foster asked. Foster also accused DeJong and attorney Starkey for letting the council meetings in Brick Township lose their sense of decorum, even allowing residents to heckle speakers, he claimed.
“We need a council president who is going to enforce the rules and people’s legal rights,” Foster said as DeJong shuffled papers, wrote notes and ignored Foster. Foster took notice.
“Look at what the council president is doing right now,” he said as she continued to ignore him. “Pay attention to the meetings…this is what she’s like. If you people had integrity, you would replace her as council president. This is a disgrace.”
“Thank you, next,” DeJong said after Foster’s chastizing. Fozman once again raised his hand. Once again, DeJong ignored the councilman.
Nan Coll, another Brick Township resident also criticized DeJong for the disrespect she shows members of the public when they are speaking.
“My mother taught me to look at the person who is speaking and to look at the person you are addressing,” the elderly Coll scolded DeJong. “It’s a disgrace, the meetings here.”
Finally, when no other hands were raised, DeJong called on her colleague.
Fozman read the New Jersey DEP notice of violation into the public record of the meeting, which he was refused in prior meetings by DeJong.
After speaking before the council, Fozman returned to his post on the Dais to applause. DeJong quickly smashed her gavel of public power to silence the applause.