Parsippany Township Attorney John Inglesino is accused of violating a local woman's constitutional right to freedom of speech when he cut off her comments and publicly impugned her motives to avoid having her ask the mayor questions at an April Town Council meeting, according to an Aug. 29 letter from the American Civil Liberties Union, NJ.com reported.
Pat Petaccia was trying to get Mayor James Barberio to answer questions regarding political bribery allegations he was facing at the time. The Somerset County Prosecutor, after investigating, made no statement as to the mayor or Inglesino's guilt or innocence but said filing criminal charges in the case would not be viable.
ACLU New Jersey legal director Edward Barocas wrote that Petaccia should have been permitted to question the mayor about allegations of an attempted quid pro quo deal that would have given Dr. Louis Valori, now running for council, a $50,000-a-year Parsippany Police position that mandated loyalty to the mayor if he wouldn't run for office. Barberio and Inglesino denied those claims and said the Somerset prosecutor's opinion vindicated them.
Instead, Inglesino criticized Petaccia from the dais and questioned her motives. Months later, the lawyer explained that he had been under subpoena in April and was not allowed to speak on the matter.
The ACLU is calling on the Parsippany Town Council to allow residents their time to speak "regardless of whether the council agrees with the content of a particular comment." The letter also asked the body to affirm that Inglesino wronged Petaccia when he silenced her and that Petaccia will not be censored at future meetings.
Petaccia, a community activist, told NJ.com that she is considering legal action, but said she only wants Inglesino to apologize.