Eatontown council members decline to name replacement for Murphy

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Eric Sucar

Members of the Eatontown Borough Council have declined to fill a vacancy on the governing body, forgoing three residents who had been recommended to them by the Eatontown Democratic County Committee.

On April 11, Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon said the Eatontown Democratic County Committee now has 15 days to make an appointment.

The county committee is a group of elected individuals who represent a specific voting district in a municipality and identify candidates for public office.

The vacancy on the Borough Council exists because Democratic Councilwoman Lisa Murphy, who was elected in November 2018 and joined the governing body in January, resigned from her position on March 13.

In her letter of resignation, Murphy said, “While this decision is difficult, family circumstances at this time require my full attention. … Luckily, there has been great communication with current council and I do not anticipate an interruption in attaining project completions. It has been a great learning experience, as well as an opportunity to meet many of the wonderful residents of Eatontown. I will continue to support Eatontown as my family obligations allow.”

Because Murphy is a Democrat, the local Democratic organization was charged with providing the names of potential replacements to the governing body.

Municipal officials notified the public an emergency meeting would be held at 6 p.m. on April 10 during which the three individuals whose names had been submitted by local Democrats would be interviewed in public prior to the selection of a replacement of Murphy.

The emergency meeting was cancelled in the late afternoon hours of April 10.

The council convened for a previously scheduled workshop meeting at 7 p.m. During that meeting, municipal officials said the Eatontown Democratic County Committee had submitted the names of Donald Bretzger, Gregory Loxton and Ramona McNees as potential replacements for Murphy.

Bretzger and McNees were identified as members of the county committee as a discussion, which at times, became heated among council members regarding the appointment process.

Moments after the council members began discussing the issue, Borough Attorney Gene Anthony advised them that if they did not appoint an individual to fill the open seat, the decision would revert back to the Eatontown Democratic County Committee.

“Picking a council member is the most intimate part of government. We are picking a person who is one of six voting members and will make decisions that will affect the town,” Eatontown Mayor Anthony Talerico said.

Talerico took office as mayor in January after winning election in November as an independent candidate. The mayor is not a voting member of the council.

The council members who had the ability to vote on a replacement for Murphy were Jasmine Story, Patricia May Kelly, Al Baginsky, Tanya Rivera and Jennifer Sherrod, all of whom are Democrats.

Story, who was Murphy’s running mate in the 2018 election, requested that a formal interview process be held before the council voted to appoint Bretzger, Loxton or McNees. She said the 6 p.m. meeting at which the interviews were to have been conducted was canceled due to a scheduling conflict.

“So our options right now are to pick someone without interviewing them or have some other body choose for us?” Kelly asked.

Anthony said, “I’m not sure why the (6 p.m.) meeting was canceled. Your choice is to select one of the three (nominees) tonight or else (the vote) goes to the local Democratic committee … but there is another complication. If none of the three people want to be appointed (to the council), that is another issue.”

Baginsky, who is a member of the county committee, said he did not want to take action on the nominees that evening and said “the Democratic committee selected the three names to begin with.”

Following the discussion among council members, no one made a motion to appoint Bretzger, Loxton or McNees.