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Mayor, Councilmen Swap Jabs Over Conflicts Letter

Mayor Barberio said Carifi and Valori were being 'arbitrary and capricious.' Valori called out Barberio's professionalism and Peluso was 'disappointed to see a conflicts letter'

The discussion regarding possible conflicts of interest between councilmembers and township attorney John Inglesino started with a motion from Council President Paul Carifi, Jr. for the resignation of Inglesino. However, after much debate, the motion was amended and the council passed 3-2 a motion that will request the conflict attorney—Michael B. Lavery, of Courter, Kobert & Cohen, PC—to investigate whether the "conflict of interest goes both ways," that Inglesino has a conflict of interest with council members and vice versa.

In an earlier article, Patch summed up the discussions among the council, Inglesino and Mayor Jamie Barberio along with a video of a portion of the heated debate.

At last week's meeting, Barberio surprised the council with a letter right before the council was about to vote on a resolution to appoint Inglesino to township attorney. In the letter, Lavery states Valori and Carifi have a conflict of interest "in voting for or against the township attorney," said Barberio. The introduction of the letter ultimately tabled the resolution, which was also tabled unanimously at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Surprise Letter

“Unknown to the council, the mayor requested an opinion from the conflicts attorney, Michael Lavery  (regarding) Inglesino’s conflict with myself and Mr. Valori,” said Carifi. “That letter we were given, right before we were about to vote, I don’t believe anyone on the town council had any idea that letter was coming.”

“I have no problem with (Barberio) bringing this letter forward, but do you think it’s professional and ethical, two minutes before we go in for a vote for the township attorney?” said Valori. “Even if we voted ‘no,’ the township attorney was a hold-over no matter what.”

“You read the last paragraph. I asked you to read it, but you wouldn’t. You handed it to the township clerk,” added Valori.

Barberio said that he received it the same day he presented the letter. Barberio said Carifi and Valori were being “arbitrary and capricious” and Valori called out Barberio’s professionalism.

Valori added that there was only four business days from the day they were sworn into the council and the meeting at which Barberio presented Lavery’s letter. He asked when was the decision made to get Lavery’s opinion.

As voices spoke over each other, Stanton tried to bring the room to order and ask to table the resolution.

Barberio stood up, left his seat at the front of the room and went to sit in the front row of the audience across from Valori. A few moments later, upon hearing part of Barberio’s conversation, Valori asked him “Mayor are you making allegations or saying comments toward me for the record? Don’t sit there and make comments toward me as I’m sitting here.”

Peluso weighed in saying that he was “very disappointed to see a conflicts letter.”

“I see a lot of conflict up here, discussions of conflict and quite frankly I’m not happy with it,” said Peluso. “Good ethics is knowing what’s right or what’s wrong, there’s no need to interpret a law to determine that. The mere appearance of impropriety or potential conflict … compels people to disqualify themselves sometimes or not to participate in certain business.”

“I also question, can individuals give detached advice, will the interest of our residents be best served or will the council and mayor be best served? Listening to what I hear today, I don’t really feel so,” said Peluso. “Counter representation is important,” and he added that he questioned if this issue can be “reconciled, or is this going to continue throughout the year and cause us embarrassment or additional cost. I don’t see the benefit here.” 

Related Patch Posts:

Sick of the Bull January 16, 2014 at 11:29 AM
I can see that the counsel chambers are going to be a war zone for the next couple of years. Not good when even the republicans can't get along with each other.

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