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.

Roger Terry

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?”

Dr. Renee Baskerville addresses the council at a special meeting. (MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

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.”

YouTube video

Liz George is the publisher of Montclair Local.

8 replies on “Montclair Council Votes to Appoint Roger Terry as Councilor at Large”

  1. What an ugly meeting. They all hate each other. Spiller would not ask the direct question from Cummings about when he reached out Terry. Honestly, I don’t know why Renee would want to join this group. If the planning board members felt they were insulted by Russo, that is their perception, which Russo had no respect for. It’s all about him. Robin had a bad week? How about the rest of us? Spiller thinks he is Mr. Smooth. Really, we need to get these people out. It’s just too ugly.

  2. “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.

    Is this the same guy that bamboozled those poor, poor parents over that whole elected BoE thingy? If it is, kudos to you! Yes, you noticed it, too? That the parents still haven’t evolved their thinking.

    Anyway, my point is that we gave those silly voters first dibs on determining the At-Large Councilors…and they picked Peter Yacobellis. I’d say they blew their chance for a second bite of the apple. FWIW, these same voters put Roger Terry in the on-deck circle. Not sure what these voters are thinking aside from day tripping on nostalgia and lack of any awareness for history. Basically, the voters just butchered their most important civic role. Absolutely butchered it. Renee wasn’t appointed because Renee has a history. She is unlike the other two women serving on the Council. She can – and has many times – played hardball. A cursory look back at history – which the Gen XYZ’ers never do – will confirm this.

    And she was right in her fair share of instances. But, this is what happens when it is the same old bold-faced names over 16+ years! This is what happens when there are not any up & comers to be considered. This is what happens when colleagues don’t forget the bare-knuckles.

    Regardless, we lack bench strength. I guess we never got around to developing the XYZ’ers.
    I’ll bet we will be relying on the Boomers’ leadership for another 4-8 years.

  3. Until I read this article, I had thought that nothing could surpass the stupidity, pettiness and personal failures on display in the House of Representatives. Oh well. And of course, it wouldn’t be a trashy sit-com if Yacobellis wasn’t involved. If people had any doubt what kind of person Yacobellis is, let this (hopefully) final sad cry for help clarify things for you.

    On a legal note: Did Yacobellis have his own mailing list for the newsletter he sent out? If the list he’s using was derived in any way at all from information that is proprietary to the work of the Council or the Township, it is considered theft, and he should be prosecuted. I would hope the Township’s attorneys are already looking into this. Perhaps Montclair Local can assign a reporter to follow-up.

  4. Silverleaf,
    It’s always about himself! He didn’t care about all of Montclair, just about one community. He basically said it himself on

  5. getitstraight – During the October 10th Lackawanna Plaza meeting, his comment directed at Councilor David Cummings may very well personify him in total, “You didn’t even say ‘hi’ to me tonight, so I’m not acknowledging you.”

  6. EyeCaramba, you couldn’t say it better. I wonder how one would find out was the provenance of Peter’s mailing list.

    I see a few other issues. I find his “disappointment with how the Township handled health benefits” galling. I, for one, am disappointed that he took those benefits in the first place and then, apparently, held on to them for dear life until indictment started looming on the horizon. At least the others have the decency to keep their mouth shut on the subject. I find his petulant/immature attitude vis-a-vis this issue distasteful and impertinent.

    What I also find distasteful and irritating is that he continues yapping from across the continent. I get the First Amendment and all, but does his newfound ‘haven’ not have any people interested in his views?

    Come on, Peter, after you tirelessly put all that work to demonstrate here in Montclair your fantastic credit-taking skills, your legendary blame-shifting, and your natural victimhood, isn’t it time you bestowed all these “professional qualities” onto that nook of Washington State currently ‘blessed’ with your presence?

    Lastly, I’m still laughing at his taking credit for Roger Terry’s appointment. Primo, it takes 4 votes, not 1. Secundo, he was not a vote. Tertio, what’s the to be proud of?

    I’m not a fan of Renee Baskerville, but I’ll give credit where credit is due: she has testicular fortitude to speak her mind and stands up for her views. Nothing personal, but based on Terry’s past performance on the Council and as chair of NAACP, I do not see any obvious evidence of these qualities. Which, of course, made him an ideal candidate to replace Yacobellis on the panel of Foul Four. God forbid Sean would agree to have on the dais someone with integrity who might upset the majority. Can’t have that.

  7. @Scriberman

    Sounds like you are talking about brain and balls (B&B). You are asking for a lot. Those are not necessarily rare commodities separately, but hard to find in combination. And if you ask for ability and integrity in addition to B&B, I think you are looking looking for a chimera in today’s Montclair. Hate to be pessimistic, but I see no one at first glance.

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