By AUBRIE GEORGE
After Council’s Feb. 7 meeting, everyone may have thought Councilwoman Victoria Fay was out.
They were wrong.
At least for now, Fay has resumed her spot on the five member governing body. Her appearance during Tuesday’s regular meeting surprised many.
After Fay filed suit against Council for their actions on Feb. 7, which effectively removed her from her seat on both Council and the township planning board, a temporary court ruling allowed her to return to her Council seat.
Officials did not expand much on Fay’s reappearance during Tuesday’s meeting, except to say that the matter is currently in litigation. Township Solicitor Richard Hunt said the matter was sent back to Council so that a public hearing could be held “to expand the record on the issue of (Fay’s) residency” — the issue which lead to Council decision to vote her seat vacant on Feb. 7.
According to a statement released by Mayor Chris Myers after the Feb. 7 meeting, Township Manager Stephen Adezzio moved forward with an investigation, done by an independent party, on Fay’s residency after a township employee brought forth information that Fay was living outside of Medford.
That investigation revealed Fay had been residing at a residence in Kings Grant in Evesham Township and had been doing so for five to six months before being elected to her seat this November. After Fay left an executive session intended to discuss the results of the investigation, Council made a motion to declare her seat vacant.
“Under New Jersey law, no person can hold local elective office unless the person resides in the municipality to which he or she is elected. Further, the law requires that the position shall be deemed vacant if the person no longer resides in the municipality,” Myers said in the statement. “Because of Mrs. Fay’s circumstance and the requirements of New Jersey law, the Township was directly at risk that any Township business voted on at that point would be deemed null and void.”
Responding to the allegations, Fay acknowledged that she had been spending time at a family property in Evesham and said she had been dealing with a private matter, but that she is still a resident of Medford.
“The allegations brought against me are not true, I am, and will remain a resident of Medford,” Fay said. “There is a wide range of legal precedent addressing the issue of residency.”
Fay said her due process rights had been violated on Feb. 7, when township officials announced the surprise executive session, which she said she had not been notified of. She said she was also denied her right to have an attorney present.
Fay announced plans to file a lawsuit against the members of Council and Addezio “who arbitrarily moved forward in their vicious witch hunt against me because of political differences.”
On Tuesday, Fay abstained from voting on official business, citing not enough time to review the meeting’s agenda. She also recused herself from participating in an executive session to discuss the litigation she has brought against the township.
Fay said she thought it was unfortunate that the situation had to get to the point where legal proceedings are involved.
“I find it ironic that my colleagues would authorize an investigation at taxpayer expense to determine where I have been recently spending my nights, yet none of those same colleagues saw any need to audit our professionals and determine how our taxpayers’ dollars are being spent,” Fay said, referring to a motion she made at the township’s reorganization meeting to audit township professionals, which did not receive a second from any other member of Council. “That is misguided to say the least.”
Fay said she would continue fighting for the residents of Medford.
“I was elected to represent the taxpayers of Medford and that is what I have done and will continue. I am already out talking to residents and listening to their concerns. They are what motivate me every day,” Fay said. “I don’t believe their interests are being protected by the majority of this Council and I will continue to fight for every resident of Medford whether my colleagues like it, or me, or not.”
Several members of the public addressed Council during public comment, urging other members to offer Fay a public apology for their actions on Feb. 7.
“I think you owe Mrs. Fay an apology for what you did to her,” resident Chris Ballentine said.
“I appreciate everything you’ve done up to this point,” resident Randy Pace said to Fay during his public comments. “I plan to support you 100 percent.”
Some residents questioned whether Fay’s temporary reinstatement included a reinstatement to the planning board. They got their answer Wednesday night when Deputy Mayor Mark Sander stood as the second Council member on the planning board alongside Councilman Bob Martin. Council had appointed Sander to the planning Board on Feb. 7 after voting Fay’s seat vacant.
A public hearing date to discuss the issue of Fay’s residency has not yet been announced.