Mayor’s controversial press conference discussed by public at recent council meeting

Members of the public used a special council meeting on Feb. 1 to speak about a controversial press conference recently held by the mayor.

A controversial press conference recently held by Mayor Randy Brown was on the minds of several members of the public during a special meeting of the Evesham Township Council on Feb. 1.

Brown was criticized for the press conference he held on Jan. 12 where he said a female employee of the Evesham Township School District had claimed to him that the ETSD personnel director had allegedly sexually harassed her and other employees of the district in 2015.

Following the press conference, ETSD director of personnel Richard Dantinne Jr. filed a defamation suit against Brown, the township and the three members of the Board of Education present at the news conference.

In the lawsuit, Dantinne claims Brown had attempted to use Dantinne as a “pawn” against Superintendent John Scavelli. Brown has had several public policy disagreements with Scavelli, including Scavelli’s support of closing Evans Elementary School due to declining enrollment across the district.

Rosemary Bernardi, a longtime public critic of Brown, called for council to stop the township from paying any legal fees associated with defending Brown in the defamation lawsuit that had been filed against him.

“You’re actions were egregious. What you did with the board members, I don’t even have the words for it. You should resign,” Bernardi said.

Echoing Bernardi’s calls was Carole Alexander, who said she would support a petition asking for Brown’s resignation.

“What you did was definitely not called for. You have put a bad, bad black mark on the town,” Alexander said.

Al Lutner, a member of the Evesham Republican Club and supporter of the mayor, said he believed many “untrue” statements had been made on social media about the council. Lutner said he believed Dantinne had been “made whole” when the Evesham BOE recently rescinded his resignation.

“He’s been restored … I don’t know what damage other than that would have applied in his situation. His job’s been restored,” Lutner said.

Joe Borucki questioned the 4 p.m. start time for the Feb. 1 meeting, given that Brown’s press conference was a “hot button issue,” and many professionals with questions could not attend.

The special council meeting was scheduled for Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. after a previous meeting scheduled for Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. was cancelled due to an error in publicizing the meeting.

There have been rumors online that the Jan. 24 was cancelled, and the Feb. 1 meeting was held at 4 p.m., to prevent the public from commenting on Brown’s press conference and the lawsuit against him.

“I think one of the things you all have to understand is, this issue really won’t go away, and there are going to be questions that are asked,” Borucki said. “The fact that this meeting is at 4 p.m. instead of 6:30 p.m. — it doesn’t pass a smell test.”

However, Evesham Township manager Tom Czerniecki and solicitor John Gillespie confirmed last week’s meeting was cancelled due to a failure to properly publicize the meeting.

Gillespie also noted that Feb. 1 was the soonest another meeting could be properly advertised, and the 4 p.m. start time was not unusual, as there were times in the past several years where council would sometimes hold one or two meetings a month at 4 p.m.

Gillespie also responded to residents who criticized him for “smirking” during their comments.

“I was thinking about all the things that aren’t being said today and they can’t be said today because it is in litigation. I can’t wait for the truth to come out. I can’t wait for the facts to come out,” Gillespie said.

Brown did not comment at the meeting on his press conference or the lawsuit against him.

As Brown noted to another resident who asked about the township’s road program during the meeting, council was restricted from commenting on anything that was not advertised on the agenda due to the special nature of the meeting.