The Township Council of Montclair in a 4-2 vote, appointed Roger Terry as the town’s new councilor at large at a special meeting Wednesday. Terry replaces Peter Yacobellis who announced his resignation from the council on Thursday, October 12. In an email newsletter that went out minutes after the vote, Yacobellis took credit for the appointment.
Terry, who is president of the Montclair NAACP, served as an at-large councilor from 2008-12 and is a former Montclair’s deputy police chief. He was not at Wednesday’s meeting.
The four yes votes for Terry: Mayor Sean Spiller, Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock, Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager and Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams. Fourth Ward Counclor David Cummings and Councilor at Large Robert Russo both voted no.
Support For Baskerville
Before the vote and during public comment, residents William Scott, Nicole Farjani, Christina Thomas and Eileen Birmingham expressed strong support for Dr. Renee Baskerville to replace Yacobellis.
Birmingham, calling the resignation of Yacobellis “unfortunate,” said Baskerville was the obvious choice, given that she received the most votes community wide in the last election.
“I am here today watching a small group of political insiders decide among themselves who is going to sit in a chair that is normally reserved for somebody elected by voters,” said Erik D’Amato.
Baskerville, who served on the council for 12 years, also spoke during public comment. She started by saying she came to the meeting because she knew her name would be mentioned.
“I’m here today to ask why is it that you wouldn’t consider me,” Baskerville said, mentioning her track record of service. “I really think I can be the voice to bring us together across the communities. What is it that I’m doing that is not allowing you to vote for me?”
Following the closing of public comment, Spiller spoke of how Montclair was a community filled with excellent people who could potentially fill the vacancy and then launched into a motion to nominate Terry, immediately seconded by Hurlock.
Russo objected, stating he was going to make a motion to nominate Baskerville, and calling Spiller’s motion “one of those railroad jobs.”
“This is a totally fraudulent situation. I had a whole speech ready to make and you’re telling me you’ve already nominated someone else?” Russo said.
“I have some concerns about this process,” said Cummings. “When I spoke with Roger, he said the mayor reached out to him recently. I would like to know when the mayor reached out to Roger Terry. If was contacted prior to Yacobellis’ resignation, then that is wrong and needs to be investigated.”
“I love Roger but he’s never been here at these meetings,” said Russo, citing how Baskerville is at every meeting and would be up to speed on the issues.
“Renee, I have a great deal of respect for you. You and I have worked very well over the years,” said Hurlock. “I believe Roger is the right choice here.”
Hurlock also said the personal animus on the council had to stop.
“If someone doesn’t vote the way you want them to, they are a criminal? It’s not the way we play here. I’ve been up here 11 years now. I’ve never played that game.”