By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
While Councilman Mike DuPont’s appointment as attorney for another town was the unmentioned reason behind his request last Monday that Red Bank change its bimonthtly meeting schedule, up in Sayreville, the appointment was an occasion for political theater.
In a dramatic council meeting in the Middlesex County town that same night, DuPont’s appointment prompted the mayor and two Republican council members to storm out because, according to local paper The Suburban, they wanted a different law firm representing the governing body and argued that the appointment circumvented the mayor’s authority.
That left the remaining four on the council to vote on whether to hire DuPont, who is a partner on Broad Street with former Red Bank Mayor Ed McKenna in the McKenna, DuPont, Higgins and Stone firm. Which they did, handing.
Can you say awkward?
“Yes it was,” DuPont told redbankgreen.
At issue in the dispute was the process of DuPont’s appointment.
Before the meeting opened, Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien said there was a vacancy in the borough attorney position and moved to appoint Brian Nelson, who is the attorney for Middletown and a partner with Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna in Menna, Supko & Nelson on an interim basis until formal requests for quotes were “straightened out,” according to the article.
O’Brien was told prior to the meeting that longtime attorney Judy Verrone would not be needed at the night’s meeting, reporter Sam Slaughter writes.
“She had been informed that she did not need to attend tonight’s meeting because the majority of the council had already selected an attorney,” O’Brien is quoted as saying.
That caused a fracture even before the meeting was formally called to order. O’Brien argued that the McKenna firm had failed to submit the proper forms to the council, which he said disqualified DuPont from being considered for the post. He also said Democratic council members had no plan on discussing DuPont’s selection or gaining public input, and that “these attempts to really circumvent the office of the mayor shouldn’t happen.”
Failing to get enough votes for Nelson’s 30-day appointment, O’Brien, along with fellow Republicans Ken Kelly and Nick Perrette, walked out of the meeting.
“Well, here we have a conflict,” O’Brien is quoted as saying. “As mayor, I can no longer have this meeting open, as we have no attorney present, as is the law under state statute, so I declare the meeting closed. There is no attorney present.”
But there was still a quorum on the dais, and the remaining members, in a room of disappointed residents, voted to bring DuPont on board, the Suburban reports. Among the reasons cited for the change: the McKenna firm offered to do the work for a flat $7,500 a month, down from the $19,000 a month that Verrone’s firm, DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole was charging, the Suburban reports.
DuPont disputes the claim that paperwork was missing from the McKenna application.
It was with the package hand-delivered, matter of fact, to Sayreville before the expiration of deadline. The certification was filed. I know it was [included], because I reviewed it personally, DuPont told the council, according to the report.
So is he or isn’t he Sayreville’s attorney?
“I am,” DuPont told redbankgreen.
If so, that leaves a conflict in schedules in Red Bank.
DuPont, who’s requested that the council switch its regular meeting slot from Monday to another night, said last week that if the Red Bank council continues to meet on its current schedule, he may have to give up the Sayreville job.
But, he said, “Right now I know everyone’s talking about it. They’re just making sure all the other meetings can be accommodated.”
DuPont doesn’t foresee anymore problems up in Sayreville, and he’s confident he can move on as the council’s attorney, he said.
“I guess as confident as one could be,” he said. “I’m just very humbled that I got appointed.”