Members of the Eatontown Democratic County Committee have appointed Gregory Loxton to fill a vacancy on the Eatontown Borough Council.
The county committee is a group of elected individuals who represent a specific voting district in a municipality and identify candidates for public office.
During a council meeting on April 24, Borough Clerk Julie Martin administered the oath of office to Loxton while his wife and two young daughters stood by his side. Loxton then took his seat on the dais.
The vacancy on the council existed 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.
Because Murphy is a Democrat, the local Democratic organization was charged with providing the names of potential replacements to the council. The names provided to the council were Loxton, Donald Bretzger and Ramona McNees.
Council members declined to fill the vacancy during a meeting on April 11. Because the council did not appoint a replacement for Murphy, the county committee had 15 days to fill the vacant seat and tapped Loxton, 64, for the opening.
Martin said Loxton’s appointment will run through Election Day, Nov. 5, and she said the final two years (2020 and 2021) of the term Murphy won in November 2018 will be on the ballot at that time.
Individuals who want to run for the two-year council term will have to file a nominating petition, but the filing deadline is uncertain at this time, Martin said.
During the council meeting, Mayor Anthony Talerico, who is an independent, asked Loxton, “Have I ever undermined democracy?” after council members had engaged in debate about an ordinance.
Loxton responded, saying, “I just want to make one thing really clear. I took this position to make Eatontown better. I have no interest in politics. I have no interest in historically what may have happened (on the council). I’m looking at how I think I could help (residents) … (Serving on council) isn’t politics to me. This is just me trying to get a job done and get it done right.”
“Sounds good,” Talerico said.
On April 22, Eatontown Democratic County Committee members issued a letter, which stated that Bill Robinson, who was the county committee chairman, was removed from his position during a special meeting on April 20.
According to the letter, Robinson, who served as chairman since 2015, mishandled the appointment process for the open Borough Council seat and failed to submit a nominating petition for an individual who wanted to seek a seat on the governing body.
Robinson could not be reached for comment.
Judy Bretzger, who was committee’s vice chairwoman, has taken over as acting chairwoman until a permanent chair can be elected. The chair’s term ends in June 2020, according to the letter.
In an interview on April 24, Bretzger, 81, said the Borough Council did not vote to appoint one of the Democrats who had been recommended by the county committee because “accusations were made about (Loxton). The council decided not to vote because they did not want to be accused of anything fishy.”
She said that of the 10 county committee members who attended the special meeting on April 20, eight members voted to appoint Loxton, one member voted for another candidate and one individual abstained from the vote.
Bretzger, who said she voted to appoint Loxton to the council, said, “Of the three (candidates), one was my husband, who is 83, and he just didn’t need that stress.”