Council sees major changes as Democrats take control

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1st Ward Councilman Andy Simpson, with his wife, Linda, is sworn in by Superior Court Judge Bernard Delury.

This past Wednesday evening, attendees at the first city council meeting of 2013 experienced something new – a governing body comprised mostly of Democrats. Three new council members were sworn in, giving the island’s Democrats a majority for the first time in the history of the island.

Lisa McClay, 2nd Ward, and Joe Picardi, 3rd Ward, were sworn in along with incumbent Rick DeLucry, 4th Ward. They joined their fellow Democrats Councilmen-at-large Tony Pullella and Dr. Frank Kern, giving the party a 5-2 majority. New Republican Andy Simpson, 1st Ward, joined the sole remaining incumbent Republican, Mayor Phil Guenther, in the minority. Everyone was on their best behavior, proclaiming that bipartisanship was the story of the day.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Lisa McClay, with her husband, Bob, and son, Alex, is sworn in by State Senator Steve Sweeney.

Immediately after the new council members took their oaths, the mayor and council honored outgoing councilmen Robert Solari and Steve Bonanni with a commemorative plaque and clock to honor their years of service to the community. Both gave emotional statements and were given a standing ovation for their years of service – in Solari’s case, 22 years – on council.

3rd Ward Councilman Joe Picardi, with his partner, Art Burlington, is sworn in by Mary Ann Kozack.

Next on the agenda was a resolution authorizing a temporary budget of $6,203,823.11. The dollar amount is the equivalent of 26.25 percent of the total appropriations. This allows the city to conduct business until the official budget is approved in April.

4th Ward Councilman Rick DeLucry, with his wife, Bobbi, is sworn in by retired Brigantine Judge Joe Wilkins.

Council then adjourned to executive session, where they debated RFPs (requests for proposal) submitted for professional contracts. When council members returned, it was apparent that major changes were in play.

The first announcement dealt with the position of city solicitor: Tim Maguire was replaced by Fred Cerni of Parker and McKay. The vote followed party lines, with both Guenther and Simpson voting against Cerni, noting Maguire’s tenure, experience and the fact that Maguire and Maguire were low bidders.

Labor counsel Archer & Greiner was replaced by Eric Bernstein in a unanimous vote, apparently a reflection on the past divisive issue regarding the pensions of City Manager Jim Barber and Police Chief Jim Frugoli.

The city’s auditor was also replaced, although many on council commented on the positive work that longtime auditor Leon Costello of Ford, Scott and Associates had performed for the city. Best practices recommended by the state indicate that the auditor should be replaced every five years, so council approved Bowman & Company.

The new city prosecutor is William Reynolds, conflict attorney is Jim Schroder, public defender is Jerry Steiner, and conflict public defender is Rick Kitrick.

Councilman DeLucry proposed that the city develop a pool of six engineering firm candidates to provide expertise required by the city engineer. A list of proposed firms was read and will be reviewed. However, longtime firm Doran Engineering was not on that list. Councilman Simpson proposed adding Doran, but it was voted down – again along party lines.

Expired Planning Board positions will be filled by Dorie Herndon, Firefighter Tim Daley, Councilman Pullella, and Conrad Weiler. George Blood and Tom Donahue will be alternates. The Brigantine School Board of Estimates will add Lisa McClay and Frank Kern, who will join Mayor Guenther. Kern was also named deputy mayor.

The next city council is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting agenda and supporting documents are available online prior to the meeting at www.brigantinebeachnj.com.

The Beachcomber News is Brigantine’s official newspaper of record and publishes all city legal notices.

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