Calls for Bipartisan Unity Crumble in Minutes at Reorg
Despite talks of cooperation in the new year, West Deptford's township committee is a body deeply divided.
Pleas for a more unified West Deptford Township Committee fell on deaf ears as appointment votes divided almost strictly along party lines at Thursday’s reorganization meeting.
The meeting started out with promising appeals for cooperation. Deputy Mayor Sean Kilpatrick, a Republican, said he wanted to see the committee start 2013 with a clean slate and put differences aside. Echoing the sentiment, Democratic Committeewoman Denice DiCarlo opened by saying she hoped to see more involvement from the whole committee and not just the Republican majority.
DiCarlo even reiterated the Republican slogan—“people before politics”—to GOP Mayor Raymond Chintall, as she urged him to keep the slogan in mind as he made his appointments.
Then the bipartisanship started to fall apart.
It started with the vote for mayor and deputy mayor. The Republican majority—Kilpatrick, Chintall and Committeeman Sam Cianfarini—returned Chintall to the mayor’s chair and voted Kilpatrick as deputy mayor, both repeats from 2012. DiCarlo and Democratic Committeewoman Donna Szymborski voted against both selections.
The committee’s Democrats also voted against appointments for township solicitor, auditor, redevelopment counsel, public defender, prosecutor, municipal engineer, financial adviser, insurance broker, township physician, deputy township clerk and members of the zoning board. Republican support allowed all of those appointments to pass with a 3-2.
Some appointees—such as the township administrator, municipal housing liaison and Office of Emergency Management coordinator—did get the full committee support.
While voting against the Republican majority proved ineffective for both committeewomen, so did a motion to appoint Kelly Conroy as solicitor for the multiple dwelling regulation board. The Republicans voted down a motion made by DiCarlo, and instead passed a motion to resubmit the position for bids.
Gloucester County Freeholder Robert Damminger (D) expressed his frustration during public comment with the committee’s Republican majority, insisting that Conroy was qualified to hold the position. Damminger asked the committee members who voted against Conroy if they did so because she was a Democrat before walking away from the microphone.
“You got a qualified person, why would you vote no?” Szymborski wondered after the meeting. “When you have a qualified person, you have to keep politics out.”
Szymborski said she and DiCarlo based their votes on who they believed would work with the township as a whole and not with just the majority. The committee’s Democrats have complained before about being cut out of decision making after Republicans took control of the committee in 2012.
Resident David Sileo scolded the entire committee for its disregard of “putting people before politics.”
“I think you should all go to your room and not come out until you can work together,” he chided.
Sileo and Damminger were not the only members of the audience outraged by the committee’s behavior. Gloucester City resident John Schmidt called DiCarlo and Szymborski “disgraceful” for their votes against the temporary budget, which he called a proactive measure so that the township can pay its bills.
“Why did two people vote not to pay bills?” Schmidt asked.
The temporary budget passed in a 3-2 vote.