IN RECOVERY, MAYOR ISSUES CRITICISM

keelerMayor Maria Fernandes, below, issued criticism to Council President William Keeler, right, and suggested holding off reappointing borough Attorney Joe Oxley, left. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

maria-fernandes-2007Sea Bright Mayor Maria Fernandes may have lost a limb, but she hasn’t lost any of her bite.

Fernandes, who’s been recovering from a mild stroke suffered in October, recently had her left leg amputated just below the knee. She’s laid up at Monmouth Medical Center, which prevented her from attending Saturday’s annual borough government  reorganization meeting.

But that didn’t stop her from making herself heard. And Fernandes blasted her elected counterparts via letter.

Intended as “constructive criticism,” Fernandes called out her council for what she says has been a lack of communication in the last year, and issued three executive orders that the council did not formally acknowledge.

Read by borough Administrator Marianne Smeltzer, Fernandes’s letter said that throughout 2010 she tried to communicate with the council via Council President William Keeler, but “unfortunately this did not play out too well.” Her first executive order was to require Keeler to provide an email address and get a cell phone.

As recently as January 5, three days before the council’s reorganization, Fernandes said she emailed the entire council concerning “skyrocketing legal and engineering expenses,” and requested each member respond by January 7 with their thoughts. Only two council members, Dina Long and Brian Kelly, did so, she said.

Her second executive order was for all council members to respond to her January 5 email.

The third was to postpone the appointment of borough Attorney Joe Oxley, borough Auditor Robert Allison and Labor Attorney Ramon Rivera.

Fernandes wanted to hold off on those appointments mainly for financial reasons, she wrote.

The legal bills for Oxley shot up $61,000 in 2010, from $89,000 to $150,000, she said. Regarding the auditor, Fernandes said the borough could have found about $2,000 in savings by going with another proposal. And Fernandes said she did not want to appoint Rivera because she had not received an official call about him.

“I have serious questions that have not been answered by our council members,” Fernandes wrote. “There is no need to appoint all the professionals today until a complete review of the matters I have brought up are addressed. These professional appointments can be held over for 30 days.”

But the council, minus Long, voted to make those appointments anyway.

Saturday’s public critique is not the first by Fernandes. Just before she suffered a stroke, Fernandes delivered a harsh criticism of the council, sparing only fellow Democrat Long from a rap on the knuckles.

As they did then, council members said they were blindsided by the panning.

“That was out of the blue,” Keeler said. “When (Smeltzer) read that, that was the first I heard. I’ll have to think it over.”

Councilman Read Murphy, who has a fractured relationship with Fernandes at best, took the mayor’s message with a sense of indifference.

“It is what it is. I take no offense of umbrage to it,” he said. “She said what she wanted to say.”

Fernandes said she’s expected to transfer to a rehabilitation facility on Monday. She’ll continue to monitor borough business, she said, and capped her speech with a positive note to the public.

“Let me be very clear to you, the taxpayers and voters of Sea Bright,” she said, “I will get better and you will see me as soon as I recover. I will be back and I will run for mayor in 2012.”

The full mayor’s message is expected to be posted on the borough’s website under the ‘mayor’s page.’