502 Millbrook Avenue, Randolph, NJ 07869-3799
Tel: 973.989.7100Fax: 973.989.7076

All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.

Minutes: June 4, 2020

A. OPENING OF SPECIAL MEETING

1. Call to Order

This meeting of the Randolph Township Council was called to order at 5:00 p.m. by Mayor Carey. This special meeting is held pursuant to the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act. The notice of the meeting has been provided by posting written notice of the time, date, location, and to the extent known, the agenda of the meeting in Randolph Township. This notice was posted on the bulletin board within Town Hall, it was filed with the Township Clerk, and it was provided to those persons or entities requesting notification. It was posted on the Township Website, TapInto Randolph, the Township Facebook page, and on the Township Twitter account on June 2, 2020, and was advertised in the official newspaper of the Township of Randolph, the Randolph Reporter, and the Daily Record on June 4, 2020.

2. Roll Call

PRESENT:
Councilman Forstenhausler - Via Zoom
Councilman Loveys - Via Zoom
Councilman Nisivoccia - Via Zoom
Councilwoman Potter - Via Zoom
Councilman Tkacs - Via Zoom
Deputy Mayor Veech - Via Zoom
Mayor Carey

Also present: Township Manager Mountain and Attorney Ed Buzak from the Buzak Law Group.

3. Pledge of Allegiance

Mayor Carey led the Pledge of Allegiance.

4. Opening Remarks

Mayor Carey provided a brief background about the purpose of this meeting, explaining that the resolution up for discussion formally denounces bigotry, racism, and discrimination. She acknowledged that recent national events, specifically the killing of Mr. George Floyd, have ignited an outpouring of anger and rage among Americans and around the world. She stated that the series of horrible incidents have once again brought to everyone’s attention the long-standing presence of systemic racism within the U.S. and the unequal treatment and bigotry experienced by many Americans, specifically people of color. She continued her statement by addressing the recent local incident that brought these issues close to home, acknowledging that racism, hatred, and bigotry, unfortunately, knows no boundaries.

Mayor Carey informed the public that the council wanted to hold this special meeting to voice their concerns and to hear the concerns of residents. She explained that the council did not want to be silent on this matter and have their silence be misinterpreted. The council’s regular meetings for this month will be held as scheduled with the next meeting taking place on June 11th. She informed the public that though they would have liked to have held this meeting earlier, 48 hours of advanced notice was required by law to be given prior to any public meeting taking place.

She added that the resolution up for consideration is not completely perfect in its language, and acknowledged that some individuals may just see it as words, but it can also be seen as a call to action. She reported that since the council was informed of the incident that took place in the community over the weekend, they have been in regular communication with the Randolph Township Board of Education (BOE) and school officials. She informed the public that the council was deeply aware of the problems that exist within the community and that they are committed to addressing these issues.

Mayor Carey informed the public that the Township Council and BOE have agreed to work together on a joint initiative that will assess the issues within Randolph regarding racism, hate, and bigotry and work towards developing community strength. The initiative will be supported and guided by the expertise of the Morris County Human Relations Commission, a county organization dedicated to encouraging, developing, promoting, and strengthening respect for human rights and cultural diversity within the county.

Details of the initiative have not yet been mapped out, but the council and BOE envision that it will include focus groups and deep discussions with community members which will pave the way for the development of policies, procedures, and programs that will advocate for acceptance and equality within the township. More details about the initiative will be shared by the BOE and council as further planning develops. She concluded her opening remarks by asking that members of the public addressing the council keep their comments within the six minutes time limit, as stated in the meeting’s agenda.

B. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Joshua Weiner of 21 Davis Avenue read into the record a letter submitted on behalf of himself, David Timpanaro, and Jeanette Hernandez and their campaign for Township Council. The letter acknowledged the pain that the community is experiencing not only from national events but also from the recent local incident of racism, bullying, and bigotry. The letter stated that the issue that requires attention is the systemic existence of hatred and ignorance within the community and called for a more expansive and proactive response from the council. On May 30th, their campaign’s Facebook page asked that the council issue a resolution to denounce racism. They are pleased that the council saw the importance of this action and appreciated their consideration of this resolution. Mr. Weiner went on to read aloud that the movement of concerned community members, the creation of sound public policy, and community programs will pave the way for social improvement. He suggested that a taskforce guided under the expertise of community members, leaders, and concerned citizens, be assembled to accomplish this and thanked Mayor Carey for informing the public about the joint initiative with the BOE. He concluded the letter by stating that the residents of this community have demonstrated that they are ready to take on the monumental task of social improvement.

Julie Swenson of 54 Park Avenue asked that the council look into the possibility of working with the My Brother’s Keeper program. The program was launched by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014, and focuses on addressing persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color and ensures that all youth can reach their full potential. She informed the council that presently over 250 cities have worked with this organization, and that they can aid the community by reviewing police force polices, improving community engagement, and strengthening diverse input.

Meredith Ross of 40 Misty Mountain Road informed the council that she and a coalition of parents, who are very motivated to create change, have created a group called Randolph P.E.A.C.E. Taskforce for Change, to address issues of racism within the community and schools. The P.E.A.C.E. abbreviation stands for Partnership Endeavor for All Citizens Equality. The group of 100 or so members represents a diverse range of races, ethnicities, and religions. She informed the council that the task force would like to be a part of the next steps of action to address issues of racism, bigotry, and hate. She asked the council about how they would ensure they are including the input of representatives from a variety of backgrounds in regard to the courses of action they plan to take.

Mayor Carey responded that the council would be getting guidance from the Morris County Human Relations Commission to aid with the joint initiative and that they will try to be as transparent and inclusive as possible. Mayor Carey informed Mrs. Ross that more information will be provided as the initiatives develop; she appreciated her input and thanked her for the group’s efforts.

Susan De Vito of 23 Rolling Ridge Road thanked Mayor Carey and the Township Council for recognizing that something needs to be done to create inclusivity and make sure everyone in the community is heard. She thanked them for recognizing the need for a joint task force with the BOE, explaining that her family is mixed race and the actions and efforts being taken were greatly appreciated.

Jennifer Hetrick of 11 Wooded Hill Lane applauded the council for holding this meeting and applauded the people who spoke prior to her. She cited a campaign zero policy that she thinks the township should consider, saying that the community should not wait for a tragic incident to occur, but instead evaluate and change police policies to prevent it from ever happening.

Rebecca Gallik of 9 Revere Court applauded the council for holding this meeting and not taking this issue lightly. She asked that there be consideration for the possibility of tasers being utilized as the first line of defense for township officers, and acknowledged that police body cameras were going to be issued to the force by the end of the year. She asked the council if the police department was employing evidence-based de-escalation training, and suggested that the force should if they have not done so already. She also suggested that it would be useful for the community if there was a published list of businesses owned and run by black community members, as it would allow people who want to support them do so more freely. She also suggested that the school curriculum should focus on the black experience and history of the black community more expansively in the curriculum, not only in black history month. She requested that a breakdown of Randolph’s workforce be developed to prioritize people of color.

Jeannette Hernandez of 35 Peace Road thanked the council for reaching out to the Morris County Human Relations Commission to assist with this matter. She got feedback from people and supporters who were unable to join the meeting due to the 100 capacity limit in the basic package and asked that the council consider upgrading to higher package capacity. Manager Mountain informed her that the township does not utilize the basic free package and does pay for a higher capacity package. He said he would look into the package details to see why people cannot join the meeting and informed her that the township has not experienced this level of participation for some time.

Jill Petroro of 6 Indian Road appreciated the work of the council and BOE in addressing this issue. She inquired about any new methods of trying to reduce racism and wanted to know if the students involved in the incident over the weekend would face repercussions. She added that the incident appalled her, and stated that deterrents for this behavior should be in place. Mayor Carey informed her that policies do exist, but as it is the BOE who are working with this issue, she did not want to speak on their behalf. Mayor Carey informed her that the township would get back to her as more information regarding this issue develops.

Ramit Aggarwall of 30 Marjaleen Drive asked if there was any action taken to address the incident from the weekend. He inquired if there was any type of remediation achieved that could ease the minds of parents within the community. Mayor Carey informed him that the school and police had begun investigating the incident and that the council was not privy to the details of the investigation.

Joshua Weiner wanted to utilize the remainder of his 6-minute time limit to add a few things to the record. He asked that in addition to the joint task force being created by the BOE and the Township Council, the creation of a permanent standing committee be set in place to monitor community relations. He inquired about the possibility of examining community race relations on a qualitative level, and that the committee be considered the sole authority for ethnic and race relations within the township. He recommended that the resolution in question be amended to include the individuals protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. He expressed that it would be helpful for people to understand who the people identified under that law are.

Elias Gatoulis of 17 Bonnell Lane shared his opinion regarding the proposed resolution. He stated that systemic racism was a myth and that America is not a racist country. He asked if there was any evidence to prove that racism is an issue in Randolph, and stated that it was white Americans that fought other white American to free black slaves. He stated that affirmative action has given priority to minorities for positions and that unemployment was low amongst black Americans, and concluded his statement by saying that we do not live in the Jim Crow era. He continued to say that it was irresponsible for politicians to say that being black is a struggle, to which he added that the idea of that notion was a farce. Mr. Gatoulis referenced an article from the Wall Street Journal comparing the fatality rates between black and white Americans. He stated that he condemns racism, but to extrapolate the acts of a few bad officers was wrong. He continued to reference incidents of public racism and how the offenders of those behaviors are continuing to receive social repercussions. He stated that America has zero-tolerance for racism and that he refused to feel compelled to condemn it and openly endorse basic principles everyone should condemn. He expressed to the council and public that he refused to repent for being a white male, and explained his frustration at the thought of having to denounce this behavior for fear of being labeled by social justice warriors. He referenced back to Mr. Wiener’s request for the creation of a standing race relations committee and stated his opinion that it would be used as an excuse to raise tax dollars. He stated that it is the responsibility of families to teach each other about these issues, not the government.

Kate Jones of 38 Valley View Avenue made a comment addressed to Mr. Gatoulis, she stated that it was because of thoughts and behaviors similar to the ones he expressed that demonstrated the importance of having meetings like the one at present. She explained that it was important to not only have parents teach their kids how to conduct themselves but for the community as well. She suggested that funding such initiatives with tax dollars could help educate the community to better understand the past, present, and future. She stated that the township should not be a community where people of color feel oppressed. She explained that the conversations parents of children of color need to have are difficult and that any help and directions provided by the community can allow for the possibility for decreasing instances of injustice, racism, classism, and more.

Terry Mitchell of 40 Arrowgate Drive commented in response to the statements made by Mr. Gatoulis. She stated that it is for the reason that some individuals, who may be parents, believe that racism is a myth that cultural awareness needs to be taught in schools. She explained that children are the future and that they need to be exposed to the things they need to learn and the school system can create an impact by un-teaching the racism, bigotry and other inappropriate behaviors kids may have learned elsewhere. She explained that when children have their self-worth and value challenged because of their skin color or religion it can impact them greatly in a negative way. She concluded her statement by emphasizing the importance of providing this education in the township schools.

Jennifer Hetrick thanked the last two speakers and directed her statement to address Mr. Galtoulis’ comments. She stated that she has seen data that contradicts the information he shared from the Wall Street Journal, explaining that a black person is three times more likely to be killed by police than a white person, citing information from the website http://www.mappingpolicevoilence.org. She recounted instances where she heard notions of racism and bigotry from neighbors, and stated that minor acts of racism needed to be addressed because systemic racism will continue to be an issue otherwise. She spoke to some individuals from the black community who have shared their experience and pain, and suggested that it was important to reach out to community members affected by these behaviors and have discussions.

Bonnie Rosenthal of 26 Beaver Dam Road stated that the community no longer accepts constructs of racism and acts of bigotry and hate. She explained to the council that she has learned that we can never understand what people of color go through, but she urges that we look within ourselves to examine the racist beliefs we may hold and address them. She asked the community to communicate with different cultures and gain a better understanding of their struggle so we can accomplish effective change.

Dave Timpanaro of 450 Quaker church Road applauded most of the people on the call and denounced the comments made by Mr. Galtoulis. He stated that he acknowledged that he was allowed to make his comments and voice his opinion, but recognized them as being outright false. He stated that he would never pretend that he could experience what people of color have gone through, but he has been witness to the struggles of his friends and peers. He stated that systemic racism was a real issue and was unfair.

Mr. Timpanaro recognized that he has never been a part of an oppressed population that is murdered at an alarming rate while also being ignored, but he did state that he can do his part by bringing attention to the issues those individuals are facing. He asked that the township take action with this resolution, referring to similar resolutions that were denied in the past. He hoped that the council would take into consideration the incident that occurred in the community over the weekend and the large participation of the public at this meeting and pass this resolution. Seeing no on further the public portion was closed.

C. COMBINED ACTION RESOLUTIONS

R-149-20 Denouncing Racism, Bigotry and Discrimination

Councilman Tkacs commented that everyone was saddened and outraged by the recent national and local incidents that occurred. He stated that there is a long road before the community and the country before we become a society were race is no longer a factor. He recounted his experience as a husband in a mixed race marriage and as a father of bi-racial children, explaining that he has had experiences with bias and racism, some overt, some hidden, but all leaving a demeaning and negative impact. He stated that he is in full support of this resolution and hopes that its message will lead to greater awareness within the community.

Councilman Forstenhausler thanked Mayor Carey and Deputy Mayor Veech for communicating with the BOE and taking action by assembling this meeting. He informed the public that the council would have like to have held this meeting sooner but due to protocol and public notice requirements this could not be so. He thanked the BOE for taking this matter seriously and meeting with council liaisons. He shared his reaction to seeing the video of Mr. George Floyd’s death and admitted it left him heartbroken. He stated that as a community we should do all that we can to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again, and expressed his shock at the local incident of racism that occurred over the weekend involving some residents directing ignorant, racist and hateful thoughts at a student of color. He stated that it was evident that this behavior was more widespread than had been initially thought.

Councilman Forstenhausler commented that he looked forward to working with the Morris County Human Relations Commission to improve community strength and to address these issues to create beneficial and longstanding change. He thanked the members of the public for joining the meeting and apologized to the residents who could not join the call. He expressed that in his time on the council he has enjoyed working with the cultural communities within the township and felt strongly that we need to look at each other as Americans and not just by our ethnicity and religion.

Councilman Loveys thanked Mayor Carey, Deputy Mayor Veech, Manager Mountain and Township Clerk Luciani for putting this special meeting together. He stated that seeing members of the public get involved with these issues, under trying circumstances, was encouraging to see and stated his support for the resolution. Just like many others, he was left saddened and disheartened when he saw the treatment of Mr. Floyd and the many other racial injustices that have occurred. He stated that he and the council condemn such behavior and that it has no place within the community or anywhere else. He believes that through conversation and discussion the community can only grow stronger.

Councilwoman Potter expressed her support for this resolution and offered her thoughts and prayers to Mr. Floyd’s family. She stated that she condemns racism and bigotry and briefly described the work that the township police department has been doing for the last decade to improve their relationship with the community. She looks forward to this relationship growing stronger with the addition of the public’s thoughts.

Deputy Mayor Veech informed the public that the council had never had a request for an equality resolution since her time on the council as of 2011, referring back to the statement made by Mr. Timpanaro. She echoed all the pervious comments made by the council members who spoke, and stated that she fully supported the resolution and encouraged the promotion of tolerance, diversity, and human rights, and the condemnation of racism. She explained that the joint initiative the council and BOA are participating in will be a collective and transparent effort as the community works together to effect change.

Deputy Mayor Veech made a motion to approve the resolution. Councilwoman Potter seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:

AYES:
Councilman Forstenhausler
Councilman Loveys
Councilman Nisivoccia
Councilwoman Potter
Councilman Tkacs
Deputy Mayor Veech
Mayor Carey

NAYS: None

D. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

David Timpanaro informed the council that he had personally requested and supported resolutions related to equality and inclusivity multiple times in the past. These resolutions were declined on numerous occasions for their subjectivity and the concern that it would set precedence for accepting all resolutions being requested. He stated that these requests were all documented on the public record. He commented that this was not a time for politics but instead the time to help the community and that he would not standby and pretend that these requests were not made.

Seeing no one further the public portion was closed.

E. COUNCIL COMMENTS

Councilman Forstenhausler commented that this discussion should not be political, and was not an issue of partisanship but rather of racism, bigotry, and hate. He was personally offended that someone would call this discussion political and stated that these issues should be talked about as a community.

F. ADJOURNMENT

Councilman Tkacs made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 6:08 p.m. Councilman Forstenhausler seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:

AYES:
Councilman Forstenhausler
Councilman Loveys
Councilman Nisivoccia
Councilwoman Potter
Councilman Tkacs
Deputy Mayor Veech
Mayor Carey

NAYS: None