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Montclair, NJ – The show will go on, but Timothy Stafford won’t be there.

The Township of Montclair sent an alert Friday morning that “the Special Meeting of the Township Council will be taking place at 10 AM in Council Chambers in the Municipal Building. However, please note that Mr. Timothy Stafford waived his right to a public meeting.”

Timothy Stafford. Photo: Montclair Local

What you can expect today?

According to Montclair Communications Director Katya Wowk, the meeting will proceed as indicated in the agenda in the resolution here, but without the Town Manager portion.

Public comment “shall not exceed one hour (pursuant to N.J.S.A. 10:4-12) and shall be held in advance of the public hearing.” Previously, resolution (R-23-108) with the date and rules of the procedure for public hearing for Township Manager Timothy F. Stafford, offered an opportunity for Stafford and his counsel to present any matters they wish to the Township Council, including introducing evidence to the Township Council.

When the public hearing ends, the Township Council was expected to “defer its final vote on removal and adjourn for no less than one (1) hour to give the Council ample time to consider all matters presented by Township Manager Stafford.”

Given that Stafford is not presenting, the vote may happen sooner.

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12 replies on “Watch Montclair Special Council Meeting LIVE: Stafford Waives Right To Public Hearing”

  1. I’m not at all surprised Stafford didn’t show up in the end.

    I do not understand who Yacobellis thinks he is to be shushing the public. The public has the right to applaud or chuckle if they so wish and the Council has no right to interfere with that. First Amendment! His “justification” made even less sense. “Because of the seriousness of the matter, we ask that there be no reaction from the public.” What are you saying, Peter? That no serious matters were ever discussed before? Now you are going to dictate what is serious and what isn’t and tell us when it’s okay to react? If you want those meeting to not turn into a shit show, start doing the work we elected you to do. You don’t solve problems by silencing people.

  2. Yes, Wilhelm Keith. This is a growing and disturbing dictatorial side seen now coming from Councilor Peter Yacobellis. And it gives further pause watching, because it could be a bellwether for how he would act as Mayor here, when chairing meetings and having to handle critical resident response.

    Sure, if public reactions yesterday had really interrupted or inhibited a speaker, or actually delayed the proceedings, Peter would be correct as temporary chair to stop them.

    But the minor reactions seen: some applause, quick laughing, even the 5 seconds gaffe snickering when former Councilor Rich McMahon rose to defend Manger Stafford (McMahon personally brought Stafford into the Government during the last Council administrations so Tim was his boy)…you just let that go. It’s a public meeting. People react with natural emotions. Peter did not let that go as you noted.

    As the temporary appointed Council meeting chair, he even tried to block Councilor Russo from making a few points when Bob responded to some commenters — which was also very surprising. That’s because Yacobellis himself also frequently interjects his own self-serving commentary in-between resident speakers during Council public comments, sometimes with prepared speeches to defend himself even, or to explain his positions. So interrupting to limt Bob (yes, who has his own repetitive shtick) was nonetheless hypothetical. Again, concerning.

    People should be aware that Councilor Yacobellis is already under actual scrutiny from what I’m told are official complaints being made — given his social media blocking of some residents with opposing views. Even deleting critical comments and threads from his facebook site pages. Which, by all accounts, may actually be unlawful since those accounts are considered the public record — according to good government activists citing ACLU positions.

    Forget even Peter’s soon to be exposed frivolous lawsuit against myself and David Herron here, designed to chill and silence those illuminating his apparent conflict of interest under NJ. public statutes over the Lackawanna project. That’s because our free speech made during a legislative session is fully protected regardless. So, even if we are wrong and the appearance of, or potential for a conflict here impacting his impartiality is not correct (should some judge eventually rule) — suing your residents to stop them from making this public assertion of potential wrongdoing — is a sure loser nonetheless.

    IMO…it’s actually part of the wider disturbing political trend — both on the left and the right — of silencing dissent today. People who who think it’s just OK to limit views contradictory to their own and/or who can only hear an echo chamber of supportive speech with sycophants around them. And yet, unwilling to really subject their positions into the marketplace of ideas to actually engage in open debate.

    Sadly, Peter, who I and many others had such high hopes for to start — appears to be part of this mindset now. With disturbing moves seen — to try and suppress those who don’t agree.

  3. “Which, by all accounts, may actually be unlawful since those accounts are considered the public record — according to good government activists citing ACLU positions.”

    Is this serious? Serious people are making this an OPRA violation?
    Wow, the ACLU and good activists aren’t what they used to be.

    I didn’t think Facebook & Twitter were still relevant. And let me get these so-called good activists’ argument straight : it is an OPRA violation to delete something off a platform THAT YOU HAVE TO SUBSCRIBE TO?
    For which they can sell you personally identifiable information?
    And the default right to track the user across the internet and leave software on your devices? Even when you are not on their platform?

    These activists? And I thought I was small-minded. This is what the ACLU spends it time on?

    Martin, you gotta get these activists a segment in that Comedy Central deal. Personally, I think they could carry a plot line over several episodes. Has any of these activists gone on the record here on these violations?

    If they have, I will readily OPRA Meta to get details.

    And Martin, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your points. I’m just suggesting people need to tighten up their games and eschew the “throwing anything and everything at the kitchen wall to see what may stick” strategy. Its kind of intellectually juvenile.

  4. Frank again, with well meaning advice and in good faith, I really urge you to try to get out of the leaf identification business here and focus instead more on the trees and the forest. Consider and critique those impacts and affects.

    You too often undermine your own POV with ths minutia that is then not tied back into the whole. Deal with the main points and issues– where you agree/disagree and why…not focus as much on just the little things possibly off behind that.

  5. Watching how Peter Yacobellis has tried to silence his constituents has been so eye-opening. First, the people he blocks on his professional FB page, then these frivolous lawsuits. Is anyone else getting really tired of his dirty deleting? It sure has gotten many people really good at screenshots. He makes Spiller look good. lol

    Then we got a close-up view of his controlling ways as he took over the meeting yesterday. He was trying to take away people’s first amendment rights by trying to silence their natural reactions. Just a guess, but thinking he wouldn’t do that if the reaction was to his liking. If nothing else, this guy is predictable.

  6. Hey Ira or Calvin – is absence at a prior meeting a legit reason to recuse/abstain/be absent?

  7. Martin,

    Ask the 1,700+ petitioners against Lackawanna 2 questions:

    1. Do you think Montclair needs to grow?
    2. How would your land use policy support your answer to Q1?

  8. Like the previous comment​at​ors, I am disturbed at how the Council’s special meeting was conducted and what that means for the future. To start with, while the chairperson is responsible for maintaining order, the chair should not be trying to s​ilence​ public reaction and his colleagues​’​ comments. This is not a courtroom but a public legislative session. I suppose Councilor Yacobellis was emulating the Deputy Mayor, who demonstrated a similarly closed-minded and cavalier attitude toward the public in the meetings in which he presided. ​Actually. this di​smissive​ behavior is not surprising from a Councilor who is suing and belittling members of the public for commenting about him at a Council meeting. There is a proper balance between decorum and public expression which is not well served by a martinet or short-tempered ​would-be dictocrat ​at the helm. Interestingly, Councilor Yacobellis was elected as chair-pro-tempore, when the senior at-large member of the Council, who would have been the appropriate choice, was pointedly ignored.

    BTW​,​ to answer one of the public questions, the Open Public Meetings Act requires that all meetings of the governing body set a aside a portion of the meeting for public comment, so this was not a gratuitous exercise​.​

    Another odd and troubling occurrence was the explanation given that the Deputy Mayor chose not to appear at the special meeting because he hadn’t participated in the vote on the original resolution. This absurd reasoning echoed the Mayor’s peculiar justification for refusing to participate in the hearing or vote on the adoption of the employee and council indemnification ordinance. This is simply a cop-out. There is no legal requirement, custom, or legitimate basis for such a “recusal.”

    It was also weird how the information was conveyed, since the normal course is for the Clerk to transmit any messages from absent members to the other Councilors.

    These criticisms are not about the big issues facing the Township. The meeting at ​l​e​​ast went part of the way to deal with one of th​ose issues​. But they are indicative of the incompetence, inability to address responsibilities in a timely way, and lack of teamwork that pervades the Council.

  9. @ Scriberman (your comment posted at 3:58pm today)

    The answer is: absolutely not. I am glad Ira answered your question quicker and in much more eloquent way.

    To explore another issue, I was flabbergasted by what Mr. Burr said at the very end of the meeting in response to Charles Bagley’s question.

    Mr. Bagley (last resident to take floor): “[we want to know] whether or not there was any kind of monetary settlement with Stafford.”

    Mr. Burr: “There has been no settlement reached with Mr. Stafford. We are anticipating a lawsuit by Mr. Stafford.”

    First sentence is fine. Second one is NOT. Making such statement by a town attorney is unprofessional and ill-advised in a number of ways:

    1. It’s an answer to a question that wasn’t asked.
    2. It suggests the Township did something wrong.
    3. It clearly “invites” Stafford to file his (groundless) lawsuit.
    4. Being gratuitous and voluntarily offered, Burr’s statement is almost foreboding, as though he was threatening residents with a ruinous effect of their will to oust Stafford.

    Further, it is inappropriate for town attorney to directly respond to constituents’ questions unless so instructed by the chair. Burr started responding before the chair had a chance to solicit his response. Robert’s Rules are clear on this: Parlamentarian (i.e. board’s legal advisor) is not to speak at a public meeting unless and until so directed by board’s chair.

    Does Mr. Burr not know that? Does the Council not know that? Does the Clerk not know that?

  10. Good work unloading Stafford.

    I (and many others) are so glad the Council have finally found its scrotum to do the right thing. Well done.

  11. Ira: Thank you for your answer. Elucidating indeed.

    Calvin: I don’t think you practice local government law, but you are doing a good job looking at it and helping us understand things. Thank you for that.

    How come Robin Schlager doesn’t raise hell about Burr speaking without being directed? She has been on the Council for what, 11 years? Also, he manipulated her deviously on the Glen Ridge fire contract.

    Council members: I hope you will have the sense to stay the course and hire a competent town attorney, as you committed to doing during one of recent council meetings. We’re watching.

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