CAPE MAY – The Sept. 20 Cape May City Council meeting became a uncharacteristically boisterous after city solicitor Anthony Monzo addressed published comments by Councilman Shaine Meier, who said he was “verbally assaulted and abused” by Monzo and Mayor Ed Mahaney in a closed session meeting, Aug. 15.
Meier was quoted in a Press of Atlantic City article dated Sept. 16, titled, “Police chief’s demotion big topic at Cape May Candidates forum.” Meier said he was called by The Press reporter after he commented on social media that he was tired of being bullied in city government. In the article, Meier was quoted as saying he was verbally attacked after he questioned the decision to remove Robert Sheehan as police chief.
On Sept. 20, Monzo said he found Meier’s comments very disturbing, and said he was obligated to address the “false things said in the newspaper.”
“Shaine, you told a reporter from The Press I and the mayor had verbally assaulted and bullied you in a meeting. This is a false statement,” Monzo said.
Monzo went on to poll the other members at the council table, which includes himself, city clerk Louise Cummiskey, city manager Bruce MacLeod, and the five members of council, asking if anyone was verbally assaulted in the Aug. 15 closed session meeting. Seeing no hands, Monzo said, “No one at this table claims you were verbally assaulted or bullied. It’s clear you were not telling the truth. You cannot use false information to bolster an agenda.”
Monzo characterized Meier’s comments as disrespectful, tasteless, and baseless. He said he harbored no animosity toward Meier, but asked him to be truthful.
Meier stood by his statement that he was verbally abused, adding that he was threatened by Mahaney, and Deputy Mayor Bea Pessagno attempted to coerce him into changing his vote regarding the appointment of current Police Chief Anthony Marino.
“That’s an egregious lie,” Pessagno said.
Meier said there should have been an audio recording of the closed session meeting. He said an audio recording would have shown that others in the closed session meeting raised their voices at him, and made statements he characterized as, “If you do this, I will do that.” Meier did not specifically mention who made such statements.
“There are things happening in this city that may not be illegal, but they are not right,” Meier said.
During public comment, former fire chief Jerry Inderwies Jr. asked if two members of council had dinner with one of the four candidates for police chief the day prior to the vote to appoint Marino. The line of questioning from Inderwies and Meier indicated they were talking about Marino. Pessagno said the seating was just a coincidence, saying Meier should call Congress Hall ask about the seating arrangements.
“We were invited for dinner and had no idea where we were going to be seated,” she said.
Inderwies told Monzo and council, based on their treatment of Meier at the public meeting, he could not imagine how they treated him behind closed doors.
Earlier in the meeting members of the audience came to Meier’s defense, shouting at city council that they were bullying Meier. Councilman Roger Furlin was admonishing Meier regarding his published comments, calling them disrespectful. He further said Meier had agreed with the rest of council to vote unanimously to appoint Marino. He said Meier made a phone call between leaving the closed session and afterwards changed his vote. He said he considered the behavior unethical, and said in the past he had given Meier a pass due to his youth and inability to address things properly, but would not longer do so.
“You’re doing it (bullying) now,” someone from the audience shouted.
Other comments, such as, “You’re tag-teaming him,” and “You’re ganging up on him,” were heard from the audience.
Meier said after the closed session he called his mother and said he was being pressured to vote with council. He said his mother told him to vote his conscience, and he came to the table and voted against Marino’s appointment. Meier had voted against Sheehan’s removal and has consistently supported Sheehan’s reinstatement as police chief.
Meier also said Monzo apologized to him for the treatment he received in closed session. He said the live stream video of the council meeting shows Monzo walking around the council table and speaking to him. Monzo said he tried to call Meier prior to him prior to Meier making comments to The Press, but Meier never replied. Meier said no such calls or texts were made by Monzo.
Meier said he was not lying about verbal abuse and being bullied saying his mother taught him not to lie, because once caught, you will be known as a liar.
Monzo questioned what was being characterized as “verbal abuse,” suggesting some needed to consult a dictionary.
Former police chief Robert Boyd addressed Monzo’s remarks during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying he has been on a school board many years. He said in addressing the concept of bullying in schools, it nearly all cases, the perpetrator says his behavior was not bullying. He said if the victim feels bullied, that is the definition of bullying. In the Sept. 16 article in The Press, Mahaney was quoted as saying there was no bullying going on.
Meier said he stood by his claim that he was threatened and coerced in closed session.